News roundup for Mon, Feb 8, 2020

The switch to a more nomadic lifestyle is increasingly popular—sometimes because of preference, and sometimes because of economic distress or homelessness. Accelerating climate change could increase these stressors–some anticipate off-grid living to boom.

The Super Bowl is going to cause superspreader events all over the country, not just in Florida. Folks are going to get together to watch and celebrate, making a 4th surge almost certain:

There are over 106.7 million total COVID cases.  The world has gained 1.9 million cases in 4 days. There have been 2.33 million deaths in total. The US has over 27.6 million cases and has gained over 500,000 cases in 4 days. ~475,000 Americans have died—still at a rate of about 3,000 per day. The US has gained 89,000 new cases since yesterday—case gain is on the decline for now. Mexico is currently leading the world in daily deaths.

The South African variant is destroying hopes for some of the world’s vaccines. Containment is critically important now:

South Africa is subsequently halting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine because it is not effective against the South African variant. This is a bleak development:

The B.1.1.7 UK variant is gaining a foothold in the US—primarily in Florida and California. It is likely to be the dominant strain by the end of March. Luckily the AstraZeneca vaccine IS effective against B.1.1.7:

Here’s a map where you can track variant spread in the US.

One estimate has the US attack rate at almost 38%. Given that many people never get tested, it could be worse than we think. Does this mean we’re headed towards herd immunity? After all, over 10% of the US population is now vaccinated. I can’t be sure. But I can be sure that variants like the one in Brazil and South Africa can evade both natural immunity from previous infection and some vaccines, so I think we’re nowhere near being out of the woods.

Double masking can really improve the efficacy of surgical/procedural masks because the air leaks due to gaps are mitigated. It might be good idea now that more infectious variants are spreading.

California relaxed air quality regulations because crematoriums have a backlog of bodies.

The Commissioner of the NFL has offered up all 55 stadiums to the Administration as vaccination sites. President Biden says he’s likely to take the NFL up on the offer.

The senate is moving forward with a huge (1.9 trillion dollar) COVID relief plan. The House and Senate will have a few weeks to finalize the aid legislation before certain unemployment benefits expire next month.

Johnson & Johnson is applying for US Emergency Use Authorization for its COVID vaccine:

  • 1 Comment

    • Karl Winterling

      I guess this could mean either:

      1. The virus is much better at immune escape than previously thought and we’ll need vaccines updated every year like the flu shot to stay above 50% efficacy.
      2. There are serious problems with the immune response created by the AstraZeneca shot. IIRC, there were earlier worries that it wouldn’t work well in people over 65. So we’ll have to be more careful about which vaccine is more appropriate for a given situation.
      3. Some combination of 1 and 2.

      None of these possibilities seems encouraging, to put it mildly.

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