News roundup for Fri, May 14, 2021

Operation has been restored to most of the Colonial gas pipeline, but hundreds to thousands of gas stations are still out of gas in the 17 states that rely on the pipeline. Colonial Pipeline ultimately paid $5 million in ransom to regain control of their systems. In a bizarre twist, the hackers claim they didn’t mean to make so much trouble—they just wanted money. Meanwhile, folks are still fighting (sometimes literally) to find gas:

Tension between Israel and Palestine has escalated again, and the situation looks serious and capable of escalating even further.  What began with an anti-Palestinian turf war over property in Jerusalem has escalated into the use by Palestinians of over 1,500 small-range rockets—most (but not all) deflected by the Iron Dome. Israel has levelled over 500 Hamas targets in Gaza, some residential, some government, and some industrial. It’s not just Hamas versus the IDF–civilians have engaged in beatings, fighting, and lynchings on both sides. There have been scores of casualties. The IDF has signaled readiness to engage ground troops in Gaza. Here’s the Iron Dome at work:

The Consumer Price Index has jumped over 4%, sparking more fears of inflation. The Federal Reserve maintains that the inflationary jump should be transient. Cereal, airfare, soda, lumber, and gas are just a few things on the elevated price list.

You may be eligible to take $50 off the cost of your internet as a form of pandemic relief. The program is means-tested, but is fairly generous. Here’s where to go to check it out.

A huge offshore windfarm has been approved for a location near Martha’s Vineyard. 62 giant turbines will be situated in the Atlantic with the aim to power multiple hundreds of thousands of homes.

California has a $76 billion surplus (not counting its $250 billion liability gap in state pension funding), so Governor Newsom, facing a possible recall election, plans to dole out $600-$1,100 in pandemic relief in the form of tax rebates to residents.

Americans have been paying down their credit cards. Banks may respond with more generous limits and APRs:

The world has over 161.7 million COVID cases.  The world has gained over 5.1 million cases in a week and has gained over 5 million cases per week for multiple weeks in a row. There have been nearly 3.4 million deaths in total. The US has over 33.6 million cases. Over 598,000 Americans have died. There have been 707 deaths in the last 24 hours in the US. The US gained over 34,000 new cases in the last day. India is leading the globe in daily deaths, with nearly 3,900 in the last day. India has also gained over 338,000 new cases in the last day. Brazil had over 2,500 deaths yesterday. Cases and deaths are once again declining in the US:

The CDC has lifted mask mandates indoors and outdoors for those who have been vaccinated. Caveats apply for the use of public transportation and for those who are immunocompromised:

Those with technical knowhow in India have been hacking COVID vaccine websites to secure appointments. Those without knowhow are left to fend for themselves.

The CDC says COVID vaccines may be given without regard to the timing of other (non-COVID) recent vaccines:

Ohio is going to enter vaccinated adults into a lottery pool. 5 people will win $1 million each:

Is it safe to mix COVID vaccines? We’re starting to get some data now, and so far it’s looking okay—there are some reports of increased side effects like fever and arm pain, but nothing requiring hospitalization:

This might help some folks who are still vaccine hesitant:

The variant found in India is now spreading in the UK:



    • mopdx

      I think it’s safe to say that the CDC’s announcement about mask guidance caught many of us by surprise. And I think it goes without saying that I’m looking forward to perusing The Prepared’s thoughtful analysis–backed by science and data–on its impact.

      (No, I ain’t no Nostradamus, but methinks that such analysis might be coming from y’all. Love the great work that you do!)

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      • pint of beer mopdx

        just an average joe here, but i think it’s going to increase the number of people wanting to get vaccinated.

        take a look at the previous chart and recommendation from the cdc from earlier this year:

        Screenshot from 2021-05-14 10-52-15

        even with the vaccine, they still recommended everyone to wear a mask for all indoor activities. 

        but with additional research, they are now saying that you can go back to life as normal after you’ve received the vaccine

        Screenshot from 2021-05-14 10-55-40

        to me, that seems more compelling. if i want to go back to life as normal, i need to get the vaccine. before, i still would have to wear a mask and there wasn’t much of a personal benefit to myself besides less severe of a reaction if i did get it.

        hope that makes sense….

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor mopdx

        I was really surprised, too. Especially since the confirmation that this thing is airborne and we’ve been seeing so much more in the news cycle about that. I think the Administration is taking a calculated risk here. They’re basing their statement on the data from Israel–when vaccination is ubiquitous, the numbers plummet and people can take off the mask. But the US is not Israel. Only 1/3 of Americans are currently fully vaccinated. I think the Administration is also hedging its bets that we’re nearing saturation of folks who actually want the vaccine. Most of the folks who don’t wear a mask to begin with also don’t want the vaccine, so this proclamation has little impact on them. It will impact fence-sitters most, especially those who are tired of wearing masks. I think they also know that people will get exasperated and say, “What good is a vaccine if we can never take off the mask?” But the most important question is if it is indeed safe for vaccinated people to take off masks when the population hasn’t hit herd immunity yet and there are a number of serious variants blooming all over. I don’t have the answer. My personal choice is to wait until we officially reach herd immunity before removing the mask in public, with the exception of the occasional visit to a sparsely-populated restaurant. And I will always keep my eyes on the variants. This probably deserves more analysis and data, but I’m not sure we have all the data we need yet. 

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      • Sbesch Stephanie Arnold

        I think it was out of an “abundance of caution” that they didn’t immediately announce vaccinated people could unmask.  They didn’t want to get blamed (or sued) if vaccinated people experienced severe sickness or death based on being “cleared” to unmask early on.  I think that’s risk management talking (which doesn’t always follow logic), not scientific expectations.  

        I’m a firm believer that nature follows patterns. What other illness do you still worry about catching or spreading after having it (or a proven-effective vaccine for it)?  Nobody worries about being either a carrier or a victim of chicken pox or the measles once they’re immune.  Why should they have that fear about COVID? 

        I also agree that refusing to admit vaccinated people could unmask contributed significantly to vaccine hesitancy, as it erased a large motivator for people who were already at low risk for significant complications from COVID.  Not just the “why get it if I still have to wear an uncomfortable mask?” angle, but the larger question of “why get it if I still have to live in fear?”

        In the end, you can find believable descriptions of evidence to support just about any path forward you can imagine (and don’t ever believe the government won’t lie to you in order to shape your behavior in favor of their agenda, which may not be known to you at the time – remember Fauci saying masks were ineffective when he fully believed they were, just so you wouldn’t buy up the limited supply he wanted medical workers to have?). 

        For better or worse, their willingness to create policy based on their desired outcome works both ways here.  Fauci will lie about masks and potentially sacrifice people’s lives in order to protect the mask supply for doctors, but they’ll also crunch the numbers and weigh any potential loss of life resulting from an “early” unmasking policy against the anticipated longer term benefits of breaking through vaccine hesitancy for a significant portion of the population if they think that’s the only way to get to herd immunity.

        You ultimately have to digest information from multiple (sometimes conflicting) sources and go with your gut.  My gut has told me from the start that fully vaccinated people are no longer at significant risk and no longer pose a significant risk to others.  That would require an unprecedented violation of the patterns we’ve observed in illnesses our entire lives.

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