Daily Digest: Feb. 8, 2021
I normally love Super Bowl Sunday. Even if I don’t care much about the outcome of the game, it’s always fun to gather with friends, eat tasty food, marvel at the commercials and complain about the halftime show.
This year, Super Bowl Sunday just made me anxious.
While I was still able to eat tasty food, marvel at the commercials and complain about the halftime show, I wasn’t able to gather with friends this year, because of … well, you know. Instead, it was just me and the hubby. While it was a bummer that we couldn’t gather with friends, that wasn’t the thing that made me anxious.
It was the crowds.
I’m not necessarily talking about the people inside Raymond James Stadium. While the stadium looked pretty gosh-darned full, there were “only” about 20,000 people there; the rest of the “crowd” was made up of cardboard cutouts.
I am talking about the people outside of the stadium, running amok in Tampa throughout the weekend. This New York Times piece explains just one part of the party: “The streets of Tampa, Fla., teemed with boozy revelers into the wee hours of Monday, many of them ignoring pleas from medical experts to socially distance and to wear masks, after the Buccaneers crushed the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s Super Bowl. A few scrums broke out.”
After 11 months of restrictions, I am tired. I am sure you are, too. And despite the very real and scary threat of variants, it does feel like we have a chance of getting more “normalcy” back fairly soon. Dr. Scott Gottlieb—a former FDA commissioner who, despite being on seemingly every TV news program in recent weeks, is a smart guy—said today that he thinks the vaccine supply will start to catch up with the demand by April. 1—and he, like many other scientists, thinks they’ll do a lot of good even against the scary variants.
If we mask up, social distance and get shots in arms, this summer could be pretty OK, as far as the pandemic is concerned. But potential super-spreader events in Tampa make this hopeful possibility less likely.
From the Independent
The Salton Sea Scramble: Restoration Efforts Are Finally Under Way—but According to the Current Plan, Pollution Will Still Worsen Over at Least the Next Decade
By Kevin Fitzgerald
February 7, 2021
On Jan. 13, the California Natural Resources Agency announced that construction had begun on “the state’s first large-scale project to create habitat and reduce exposed […]
By Matt King
February 8, 2021
While rules vary from county to county, live music at outdoor restaurants is again allowed in California.
By Bob Grimm
February 8, 2021
Neil Marshall is the director of one of my very favorite horror films, The Descent. It came out in 2005—16 years ago. Since then … […]
And Now, the News
• Speaking of things that aren’t helping: Late Friday night, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6-3 ruling saying that California’s ban on indoor religious services in most counties was a no-no—although a 25 percent capacity limit and prohibitions on singing and chanting are fine. Key quote, from Justice Neil M. Gorsuch: “Since the arrival of COVID–19, California has openly imposed more stringent regulations on religious institutions than on many businesses. California worries that worship brings people together for too much time. Yet, California does not limit its citizens to running in and out of other establishments; no one is barred from lingering in shopping malls, salons, or bus terminals.” Sigh. Anyway, our partners at CalMatters explain—and offer up a handy tracker on all the various lawsuits over COVID-19 restrictions.
• Riverside County has again lowered the age of eligibility at its upcoming vaccine clinics. After ramping it up to 85 a few weeks ago, it’s been steadily lowered, and is now back down to the age of 65. However, appointments are going fast; head here to see what’s left (and bookmark to check for future clinic additions). As of this writing, all of the Indio slots were full, but there was availability in Perris, Menifee and Hemet between now and Feb. 16.
• Related: “Racial and ethnic minority communities that lack internet access have been left behind in the race to get a COVID-19 vaccine,” according to three health-disparity researchers, writing for The Conversation. “The average monthly cost of internet access, about US$70, can be out of reach for those who can barely afford groceries.”
• That coronavirus variant that devastated the U.K. could be the dominant SARS-CoV-2 version in the U.S. by next month, according to a new study. CNBC says: “Health officials have said that existing vaccines are likely to work against new strains, though their efficacy may be somewhat reduced. The study found that there is ‘relatively low’ amounts of B.1.1.7. in the U.S. at the moment but that, given its speedy spread, it is ‘almost certainly destined to become the dominant SARS-CoV-2 lineage by March 2021.’”
• In other alarming variants news, South Africa has suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after determining it doesn’t work that well against the dominant variant there in stopping minor to moderate COVID-19 cases. The New York Times says: “The scientists said … that they believed the vaccine might protect against more severe cases, based on the immune responses detected in blood samples from people who were given it. If further studies show that to be the case, South African health officials will consider resuming use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, they said.”
• And now for some hopeful news out of Israel: “A new coronavirus treatment being developed at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Medical Center has successfully completed phase 1 trials and appears to have helped numerous moderate-to-serious cases of COVID-19 quickly recover from the disease, the hospital said Friday,” according to The Times of Israel. “Hailing a ‘huge breakthrough,’ the hospital said Prof. Nadir Arber’s EXO-CD24 substance had been administered to 30 patients whose conditions were moderate or worse, and all 30 recovered—29 of them within three to five days.” Keep your fingers crossed, but as we always say here, it’s best to take early science news like this with a figurative grain of salt that’s boulder-sized.
• A Congressional Budget Office report says a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour would result in some good and some bad. The Washington Post explains: “On one hand, the CBO estimated that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would cost 1.4 million jobs and increase the deficit by $54 billion over 10 years. But it also estimated the policy would lift 900,000 people out of poverty and raise income for 17 million people—about one in 10 workers. Another 10 million who have wages just above that amount could potentially see increases as well, the CBO reported.”
• CNN says: “The Biden administration is considering a rule that would require negative COVID-19 test results for domestic air travel, according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.”
• Facebook is taking extra steps to crack down on vaccine misinformation. NPR reports: “The company is widening the list of banned claims to include posts falsely claiming the virus is man-made or manufactured and that face masks don’t prevent the spread of COVID. It’s also banning false claims about vaccines in general that have long been in circulation despite being repeatedly debunked: that vaccines are toxic, dangerous or cause autism, that they are not effective, and that it’s safer to get a disease than the vaccine meant to prevent it.”
• Related: If you want to know more about the new-fangled mRNA vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer for COVID-19, we highly recommend this 12 1/2 minute video by fantastic YouTube channel SciShow. The cool thing is that this technology has exciting potential to help with a lot more than just SARS-CoV-2.
• Finally … Olivia Adams, a Massachusetts software developer who is currently on maternity leave, is my new hero. WBUR.org explains why: “When trouble arises, some people stay on the sidelines and gripe. That’s not the Olivia Adams approach. The 28-year-old Arlington resident noticed complaints about the user-unfriendly system for booking a COVID-19 vaccination appointment in Massachusetts, and she leapt into the fray. She had a hunch she could address some of the struggles experienced by people in the 75-year-old-and-up contingent, and the friends and relatives trying to help them. The result? Adams has developed her own website where people can find available appointments in Massachusetts, all on one page. She’s making it available for anyone to access.”
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