News roundup for Fri, Aug 20, 2021

Wildfires are raging in Northern California, and tens of thousands of people are going to lose electricity because of it, adding insult to injury:

Mandatory state-wide water restrictions are coming down the proverbial pipeline for California.

In news of the weird, intelligence data firm Palantir bought $51 million in gold bars as a hedge against a “black swan event.” Many other large companies are hoarding cash, too. I don’t know what they’re expecting, but apparently liquidity is high on the priority list:

Toyota is cutting production by a whopping 40% because of the chip shortage. Most car companies have had to cut production, and Volkswagen says it may follow suit, too.

Tens of millions of US T-Mobile users have had their data breached in a significant cyberattack. Estimates now say 50 million accounts have been exposed, up from 40 million.

Haiti is in desperate need of help and aid. The confluence of COVID, devastating earthquakes, and tropical storms have left the country in despair. Haiti is the poorest nation in the Americas.

Tropical storm Henri is about to hit the East Coast:

Hundreds of thousands of people who have been deemed to be permanently disabled will be made eligible for student loan forgiveness by the Biden Administration. The paperwork burden needed to seek the loan forgiveness is said to be formidable.

Robbers were thwarted by a homeowner in Phoenix who was both armed and who had motion-detectors and security cameras.

The world has 210.8 million COVID cases. The world has gained 4.8 million cases in the last seven days. There have been over 4.4 million deaths in total. The US has had a cumulative 38.2 million cases. Over 643,000 Americans have died. There have been over 5,200 deaths in the US in the last seven days, and nearly 1 million new cases in that time. The US gained over 162,000 new cases on Wednesday. The US is once again leading the world in explosive daily case gain. The Delta surge in the US is serious:

Hospitals are filling up all over the US:

If you need a resource for checking how full hospitals are near you, check here. If you want to see weekly hospitalization trends, this is a good resource:

Delta is causing schools around the country to quarantine huge numbers of staff and students and/or shut back down, many after only a few days of instruction in the new school year:

The US DHHS is recommending a third vaccine dose not just for immunocompromised people, but for all fully-vaccinated people who received mRNA vaccines. The booster should be given eight months after their second dose. Booster doses will first be administered to health care workers, nursing home residents, and senior citizens. Dose distribution will start the week of September 20th:

New Zealand entered lockdown after discovery of new COVID cases. Although NZ is criticized for perceived “heavy-handed” measures, they’ve had very few infections, very few deaths, and fewer total days in lockdown than many other countries:

The Governor of Texas, known for his anti-mask mandates, has a COVID breakthrough infection:

Three members of the US Senate are also positive:

Please encourage the folks in your life who are not yet vaccinated to get vaccinated. Even people who have very mild COVID cases can wind up with serious cognitive deficits from that infection:

Delta is putting kids in the hospital in record numbers, and the start of school is going to make things worse:


    • MikeNZ

      Hi Stephanie,

      I love these news updates, thanks for all your work in compiling them.

      Just a comment as a Kiwi, our government may be criticised by some as ‘heavy-handed’, but most of us here in NZ are thankful for not having to live with anxiety over catching COVID and we have lived completely normal lives for the past year as the rest of the world has lived a horror story. Some of this has been sheer luck, but the ‘zero tolerance’ approach our country has opted for has paid off massively in terms of lives saved and even in economic terms, so we are happy.

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor MikeNZ

        You’ve had far more normal loves than the rest of us! Really good testing and tracing, too. 

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    • EzlyAmuzzed

      Thank you for sharing the link on ICU beds. I took at look and found the hospital closest to me was a shocking 227% capacity!!!

      Here in Florida I know its bad, especially where I am at. Until 2 days ago you had to make an appointment to get tested and that was days out and now some sites opened up but with huge lines. Doctors appointments are 3 weeks out and Urgent Care is 4 days out. But 227% capacity and every other hospital in my city at or above 100% wow!

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor EzlyAmuzzed

        Yes, it’s quite scary. People need to be extra careful right now! Folks are being air-lifted multiple states away just to get beds. 

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    • Karl Winterling

      The delta surge in Israel looks like:

      1. Vaccination rate around 60% + waning immunity after 6 months is not good enough because delta is so infectious.
      2. About half of hospitalized people are fully vaccinated, over age 60, had their last vaccine dose 6 months ago, and have underlying conditions that might prevent the vaccine from working as well. A booster after 6 months seems to give these people more neutralizing antibodies, but it’s good to keep an eye on how booster protection plays out in Israel.
      3. Almost all severe cases in people under age 60 are unvaccinated people whose conditions deteriorated rapidly soon after they got sick.
      4. In the over-60 group, severe COVID is 9 times more common among unvaccinated people than vaccinated people.
      5. Most disease seems to be spread by unvaccinated people.

      So yeah, get the vaccine if you haven’t already.

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