News roundup for Fri, Jan 28, 2022

The US Commerce Department says we’re so short of semi-conductors that production shutdowns could occur downline.  Car and medical device industries are anticipated to feel the impacts the most.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jerusalem are experiencing snow. Folks in parts of Egypt are particularly concerned as residential dwellings and other buildings are not generally constructed with insulation made for very cold weather.

There’s been a coup in Burkina Faso, with the military taking control. Mali is also experiencing instability. Neighboring countries in West Africa are wary of the spread of instability. People in Mali and Burkina Faso have been calling for help from France and even Russia. There’s definitely a power vacuum, and it will be interesting to see who fills it.

Breast milk banks are low on donations in the COVID era. Interest in donor milk is rising over time, but supply has decreased by 20% or more over the last two years. Donor milk is often used in hospitals for babies of mothers who are not able to produce their own or for babies in the NICU who flourish more readily on breast milk versus formula—a concrete example would be a baby at risk for (or having survived) necrotizing enterocolitis.

In good news, Biden backs the Right to Repair Movement. He’s vocally against anti-competitive business practices. In practice, he has asked the FTC to draft some right-to-repair rules.

The world has 366.4 million COVID cases. The world has gained 23.8 million cases in the last week. There have been over 5.65 million deaths in total. The US has had a cumulative 74.6 million cases—about 4.3 million cases were added in the last week. Over 901,000 Americans have died—about 18,000 in the last week. The US is still leading global daily case gain followed by India, Brazil, France, and the UK. The US added over 555,000 new cases Wednesday and over 390,000 by late afternoon Thursday. Daily case counts in the US are on the decline. Deaths, however, are rising:

Omicron-specific vaccine work has begun. I’d like to see bivalent vaccines with more than one variant targeted, but I’m happy to see any kind of agility in addressing new variants and I suppose picking the dominant one is fine:

Some COVID therapeutics are in such short supply that they are allocated by lottery.

A lab worker in Taiwan was infected by the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 in a lab accident and exposed over 100 other lab workers in November of last year. The lab’s transparency in reporting and accounting for the breach is laudable. Let’s put to rest the idea that lab accidents involving the transmission of these viruses are rare or even uncommon.

Vaccines are keeping people alive:

Omicron doesn’t really care if you’ve been infected before. Up to two-thirds of folks infected with the new variant du jour report having been infected with other variants in the past. The BA.2 subvariant has also branched off of Omicron and seems to be spreading quickly. We don’t yet what properties it has.


    • Cia

      I think the other variants are gone, or almost gone, now. Only Omicron is left, so they just need an Omicron-specific vaccine.

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      • JustMe Cia

        Until the next variant.

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    • brownfox-ffContributor

      What you can do about it:

      Keep working on the Enabling Trio:

      You can also:

      What projects are you working on this week?

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      • brownfox-ffContributor brownfox-ff

        Hello site admins – I appear to have gained the ‘contributor’ badge.
        I am flattered and humbled. Thank you.

        You have created something special here.
        It is great sharing notes and building wisdom with everyone.
        I am glad if I can help to contribute some positive content.

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      • Gideon ParkerStaff brownfox-ff

        You’ve earned it. Thanks for being such a great member of the community and for sharing your wisdom and advice in a polite and high quality way. Keep up the great work!

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    • John Grayman

      I like your point “Let’s put to rest the idea that lab accidents involving the transmission of these viruses are rare or even uncommon”. 

      What is scarier is that in your linked article, it further links another article where the same supervisor in the same lab had previously been infected by SARS in 2003. 

      Yeesh. That’s a tough place to work but major kudos to them for being honest and forthwith. 

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    • más picante

      I’m still not sure why we are allowing the Feds to monopolize the purchase of mABs after they’ve demonstrated a willingness to either play politics with them or severely under-order.  The complete lack of focus on therapeutic options by our public health officials is downright scary.  Telling people to get vaccinated is all well and good, but that isn’t  the end of the discussion as we know the vaccines are leaky at best (explaining why case numbers in highly vaccinated countries like Israel and Denmark are through the roof).  Those most at risk of a bad reaction to the virus need an option other than “stay home and take Tylenol, come to the hospital if you’re about to die”.  We have had mABs that perform very well, and 1/3 of them continues to do so against Omicron, but they are being ignored.  

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      • Eric más picante

        You know the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? One person takes three shots of Moderna vaccine at $15/dose for $45 total. Another person skips the vaccine, waits to get sick, then gets mab at $3-5000 per dose, then gets sick again 6 months later and gets mab again for $3-5000. The person who took the vaccine is safer, and the person who took the mab cost the government 200 times more money.

        Mab are a fine tool as a last resort, for the tiny portion of people that take their vaccines and still need a little extra help. And there’s been enough mab purchased to meet that need. But when a bunch of people foolishly skip their vaccines, and assume the government will bail them out with those expensive mab treatments… turns out there’s not enough to go around.

        There are plenty of ways for our government to reduce the death and disability associated with COVID. Vaccines rank near the top as one of the most efficient options, which is why they’re being pushed so hard by people who are actually trying to help. Plenty of other efficient options like N95 masks, isolating sick people, and updating building ventilation requirements. Mab, while good clinically for the most severe cases, are just too expensive to be giving to everyone.

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      • Cia Eric

        As you said before, Sotrovimab is the only antibody treatment effective against Omicron.

        i saw an article last week which said that it was a bad idea to deny medical care to the unvaxxed. But our society has always denied medical care to those unable to pay for it  Extremely willing to bankrupt them: medical bills are the main reason for bankruptcy. 

        Getting the vaccine has never been an easy or obvious decision. I have had ongoing severe and disabling dizziness which may or may not be related to the vaccine. I looked it up and found a site with dozens of commenters who had reacted to the Covid vaccine with such dizziness, many plaintively asking when it would end. I’ll post the link separately. But I accept that at a societal level, and also for most individuals, the vaccine was good. 

        Omicron has changed the calculation. Much more transmissible and prevalent while much less dangerous. Most people now dying are still dying of Delta contracted in November or December. The vaccine does not prevent getting or spreading O. It is said to prevent severe or fatal cases in most. Unless they start testing specifically for O, we can’t know how many severe or fatal cases have been caused by D or O. Although from now on, newish cases who are hosp would be O.

        it would be all right with me, just the same as it has always been, to say that the unvaxxed can’t get Sotrovimab. The unrich and those unable to afford health insurance are used to not getting anything from the medical system.

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      • Cia Cia
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      • Cia Cia

        It has been reorganized since the last time I looked at it. You have to look for Covid-19-Vaccine-side-effects

        950 pages of comments there so far.

        Everyone should know before getting it that such side effects have happened to a lot of people. I knew, but still got three doses with a lot of trepidation. I’m still glad I got them, but HAVE had ongoing dizziness and vertigo. At this point, if O had been the original strain, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the vaccine.

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    • Greg P

      The lead about the semiconductor shortage reminds me of the old quote – “for want of a nail a shoe was lost, for want of a shoe a horse was lost…”  and so on.  Makes for bad flashbacks to apocalyptic  science fiction books and movies – but this is real!  My thanks to brownfox for his continued posts that allow one to take a breath and focus on something concrete that each of us can do to impact our own situation.  Stay safe everyone!

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      • brownfox-ffContributor Greg P

        Thank you!


        Yes, this has me considering – what old hardware do I have that I could reuse or repurpose, in case my computer breaks, or to avoid needing a new machine.

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    • andersal

      Great reporting…..thank you!

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    • TraceContributor

      I just read the article linked to cold weather in Egypt. These comments really stood out to me: “Red Sea resort towns like Hurghada, where warm weather is their prime touristic attraction, were staggered when it snowed for the first time on record.” On record — I can’t imagine how long Egypt has been keeping records!

      Also: “Moreover the entire country is designed based on its dry-warm weather. Buildings have no insulation, or heating. And most cities don’t have rain drainage systems.” They’ve had heavy rains recently also.

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