Daily Digest: March 29, 2021
Happy Monday, everyone.
However, by far, the story that’s stuck with me the most is this, as explained by NPR:
In an emotional plea during the White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing on Monday, the CDC chief, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, described a feeling of “impending doom.”
“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope,” Walensky said. “But right now, I’m scared.”
The cause of her concern? A rising number of coronavirus cases in the United States. The most recent seven-day average is just below 60,000 cases per day—a 10% increase compared with the previous week.
Hospitalizations are up, too: about 4,800 admissions per day over the last week, up from an average 4,600 per day in the previous seven-day period. And deaths, which tend to lag cases and hospitalizations, have also begun to rise: increasing nearly 3%, to a seven-day average of about 1,000 per day.
Walensky said those numbers are especially worrisome because the pattern looks similar to the trajectory of European countries, including Germany, Italy and France, which are now battling a new wave of infections.
Oh, and did I mention that—according to the latest report posted earlier today on the city of Palm Springs website—COVID-19 levels in the city’s wastewater are, yet again, up week over week?
To be honest, I am just a little scared, too.
From the Independent
Help Wanted: Restaurants Are Enjoying Increased Capacity and More Business—but Are Having Issues Hiring Enough People
By Kevin Fitzgerald
March 29, 2021
On March 17, Riverside County at long last moved into the less-restrictive COVID-19 “red tier”—meaning Coachella Valley restaurants could again open for indoor dining, at […]
By Bob Grimm
March 29, 2021
Seeing Bob Odenkirk breaking arms and performing emergency tracheotomies makes Nobody a wonderfully bizarre—but bloody—theatrical experience.
And Now, the News
• And now after that less-than-cheery introduction, some good news: yet MORE evidence of how amazing the vaccines are working. According to The Washington Post: “The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines being deployed to fight the coronavirus pandemic are robustly effective in preventing infections in real-life conditions, according to a federal study released Monday that provides reassurance of protection for front-line workers in the United States. In a study of about 4,000 health-care personnel, police, firefighters and other essential workers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the vaccines reduced the risk of infection by 80 percent after one shot. Protection increased to 90 percent following the second dose. … Among 2,479 fully vaccinated people, just three had confirmed infections. Among 477 people who received one dose, eight infections were reported. By comparison, among 994 people who were not vaccinated, 161 developed infections.”
• Let me, for emphasis, repeat that: “Among 2,479 fully vaccinated people, just three had confirmed infections. … By comparison, among 994 people who were not vaccinated, 161 developed infections.” That’s amazing.
• While nobody is sure where, exactly, this damned virus came from, most scientists believe it came from animal-to-human transmission. However, a former head of the CDC disagrees. MedPage Today explains: “Former CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, said on CNN that he believed SARS-CoV-2 was spreading in Wuhan as early as September or October of 2019. Redfield said the ‘most likely etiology’ of the pathogen was that it had ‘escaped’ from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which had been conducting experiments with bat coronaviruses. ‘Other people don’t believe that,’ he acknowledged to CNN‘s Sanjay Gupta. But, it’s ‘not unusual for respiratory pathogens being worked on in a laboratory to infect a laboratory worker.'”
• Vaccine passports are a-comin.’ The only question is how, exactly, they will work. According to The Washington Post: “The passports are expected to be free and available through applications for smartphones, which could display a scannable code similar to an airline boarding pass. Americans without smartphone access should be able to print out the passports, developers have said. … U.S. officials say they are grappling with an array of challenges, including data privacy and health-care equity. They want to make sure all Americans will be able to get credentials that prove they have been vaccinated, but also want to set up systems that are not easily hacked or passports that cannot be counterfeited, given that forgeries are already starting to appear. One of the most significant hurdles facing federal officials: the sheer number of passport initiatives underway, with the Biden administration this month identifying at least 17, according to slides obtained by The Washington Post.”
• Related-ish: The state just released updated guidelines on outdoor live events, graduation ceremonies and whatnot. Datebook, aka the San Francisco Chronicle, breaks it down: Fun fact: No matter the tier level, attendees must be California residents and have advance tickets.
• Just days before it was set to expire, the CDC today extended the federal evictions moratorium through June 30. “Studies have found that evictions spread COVID-19 and result in more deaths from the disease since people are forced into more crowded living situations,” NPR says. “The moratorium was set to expire in just two days at the end of March. More than 8 million American households are behind on their rent, according to the Census Bureau. And housing groups have warned that allowing the CDC’s protection for renters to lapse would set off a tsunami of evictions.”
• Our partners at CalMatters take yet another look at the mess that is California’s unemployment system. The headline asks: “Is California blowing it on unemployment reform?” (Spoiler alert: We’re nodding vigorously.) Key quote: “Amid the chaos, another big problem has largely been overlooked: The state is out of unemployment money, and nobody is doing much about it. California has a history of going deep into the red to pay for jobless benefits during recessions, but the stakes are especially high this time as businesses hit hard by unprecedented pandemic shutdowns look to restart hiring. California’s unemployment rate fell in February to a pandemic-low 8.5% as employers added 141,000 jobs, but the rate is still twice as high as in February 2020.”
• You’ve likely heard that the state of Texas has lifted its face-mask mandate and all capacity limits on businesses. Well, guess what? The move appears to be, in some ways, costing the state some money. The Texas Tribune reports: “At least four organizations canceled conferences or conventions in Austin, citing health concerns after Texas ended its statewide mask mandate earlier this month. The cancellations cost the Hilton Austin hotel $350,000 in revenue, according to Austin Convention Enterprises, a city-created corporation that owns and manages the hotel. ‘These were rooms that were already on the books, and largely what we saw was fallout, ironically, from the governor opening the economy,’ said Joe Bolash, Hilton Austin general manager, during a March 16 Austin Convention Enterprises board meeting. ‘It was groups that were not comfortable returning to a fully opened economy where there was no mask mandate in place.’”
• Wednesday is a state holiday: March 31 is Cesar Chavez Day. In this era of statue-removals and name-changes, Los Angeles Times columnist Gustavo Arellano takes a look at the labor-rights icon’s complex history. Key quote: “He opposed undocumented immigrants to the point of urging his followers to report them to la migra. He accepted an all-expenses-paid trip from a repressive government and gladly received an award from its ruthless dictator despite pleas from activists not to do so. He paid his staff next to nothing. Undercut his organization with an authoritarian style that pushed away dozens of talented staffers and contrasted sharply with the people-power principles he publicly espoused. And left behind a conflicted legacy nowhere near pure enough for today’s woke warriors.” However, does Arellano want Chavez to be “cancelled”? Certainly not: Go read the column.
• The cicadas are coming! The cicadas are coming! But not here … at least not in a big way. What in the hell am I talking about? The New York Times has this answer: “A few months of quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic? That’s nothing for a swarm of cicadas that have been underground since 2004. In the time that the United States has seen the Boston Red Sox break an 86-year World Series drought, five presidential elections, a deadly pandemic and an insurrection, these creatures have been minding their own business, burrowed in the soil. Now billions of cicadas, from a group known as Brood X, are expected to emerge in the next few weeks, just in time to help orchestrate the soundtrack of summer.”
• And finally … proof that scientists are often also bad-asses: Motherboard, Vice’s tech publication, brings us this news: “Stanford scientists saved drops of the COVID-19 vaccine destined for the garbage can, reverse engineered them, and have posted the mRNA sequence that powers the vaccine on GitHub for all to see. The GitHub post is four pages long. The first two are an explanation by the team of scientists about the work, the second two pages are the entire mRNA sequence for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.” And the disclosure was OK’d by the FDA!
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