News roundup for Tue, Dec 28, 2021

The Western US is getting blanketed by snow and rain. The Sierras and their foothills have many areas that are essentially impassable at the moment. Seattle had a white Christmas. Other parts of the US are getting unusual amounts of heat for December. Hundreds upon hundreds of holiday flights were cancelled due to severe weather.

So many homes have been destroyed or damaged in natural disasters in the US that home insurance premiums are now far outstripping inflation. That’s not the only problem–in some areas with repeated disasters, homes are becoming nearly uninsurable.

Habitat for Humanity has begun 3D printing affordable homes for those in need. A family in Virginia is the first to receive a printed home through this program. The family will be able to print replacement parts for the home in the future, too.

Mayonnaise, coffee, soup, snacks, and cheese products are all going to be more pricey than usual in 2022 say food producers, who plan on raising prices. Expect the price of food to go up about 5% in general. The Consumer Price Index is already up by nearly 7% from this period last year.

In good news, 11-year-old Dayvon Johnson of Oklahoma saved two people in one day: he helped save a classmate who was choking by using the Heimlich maneuver and later the same day saved a woman from a housefire.

The world has over 281 million COVID cases. The world has gained 5.3 million cases in the last week. There have been over 5.4 million deaths in total. The US has had about 53.3 million cases cumulatively. The US gained about 1.3 million cases in the last seven days. Over 838,000 Americans have died during the pandemic—about 10,000 in the last week. The US gained over 107,000 new cases on Sunday, and over 55,000 by late afternoon Monday. Not all states are reporting daily anymore, and the holidays will cause the tallies to be underestimated. Daily case gains are likely much, much higher. The US, India, Brazil, the UK, and Russia have had the largest case gains today. When I say case gain in the US is an underestimate, this is what I mean (from a few days ago):

Connecticut is beginning its roll-out of COVID test and mask distribution. The state plans to send out millions of tests and masks over a two-week period. Some of the kits will be sent to health departments serving as a middleman for the program. Some will also be sent to schools.

FEMA still has a program to help families pay for funerals of those who have died from COVID, but the program is under-utilized. The reimbursement program covers “funeral services, cremation and interment, as well as the costs for caskets or urns, burial plots or cremation niches, markers or headstones, transportation or transfer of remains, clergy or officiant services, and the use of funeral home equipment or staff.”

Coinfection with COVID and other pathogens can result in worse health outcomes:

Omicron might be driving up hospitalizations in young children:

We’ve mentioned this before but it’s one of the first times I’ve seen the stroke fallout of COVID quantified:


    • Eric

      “Coinfection with COVID and other pathogens can result in worse health outcomes”

      Flu is a good candidate for that this winter. You know how flu vaccines are always based on the 4 strains most likely to be dominant during that year, based on predictions 6 months in advance? This year they got it wrong. This year’s flu vaccine is less than 10% effective because the dominant flu strain was not one of the 4 selected strains.

      What can you do about it? Wear a good mask – N95 or better – and make sure to fit it properly so that air can’t flow around the mask. That same mask will protect you against both COVID-19 and flu.

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    • EzlyAmuzzed

      I work in the insurance industry and have been seeing what these catastrophes are doing to companies and how it hurts consumers more than they know because this is causing less competition. 

      First two things most do not realize: 1. companies are heavily state regulated and are restricted in how much profits can be made and 2. to stay competitive an insurance corporation needs a large IT department to be able to quickly adjust to changing trends. Software has to be built and/or maintained to be able to calculate rates.

      For the past 8 years I have seen the weather catastrophes cause companies to spend more than they make, because it is hard to keep up with the changes and get those state approved. The bigger companies fair better because of having a large IT staff so be able to quickly program new rates.

      Additionally some companies have tried mitigating risk by not insuring in certain zip codes. In some states they mandate that a company provide in all zip codes or don’t provide in that state at all. Some companies have opted for the later

      Result is companies are merging to stay competitive. I was working for an insurance corporation that had been in business for over 100 years, intentionally decide to get bought out because they didn’t have the money to have such a large IT staff. Like many other companies the consumers don’t know this is happening because the name stays. So now you have a few mega insurance companies that own several other companies.

      What I see is people getting mad thinking these companies are being unfair and think they are making too much money. But the more they insist on lower rates (100% understandable) the less states will approve changes, the more these companies will merge, and the less competition we will have.

      I work in the IT dept and do NOT work in claims so to anyone reading this please please please don’t tell me your insurance claim horror story and don’t take your anger at insurance companies out on me (people do), I’m not defending insurance companies and I myself feel the pain too considering only 3 companies will insure my home and none are standard insurance, I have specialty which means higher risk and higher cost.

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      • Gideon ParkerStaff EzlyAmuzzed

        Thank you for the valuable insider knowledge! I do see insurance companies changing over the next few years as disasters continue to increase in intensity and frequency. It makes sense that the backbone of their services is a large IT department to crunch all the numbers, make predictions, and keep up with trends to keep the company afloat. I bet it’s a pretty incredible and complex system they have going on.

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      • Karl Winterling EzlyAmuzzed

        Insurance and financial services companies (like debt collection agencies, for instance) are heavily regulated at the state level and have to observe limits of what they can do or what they’re allowed to profit from. It probably won’t make anything better to take out your frustration on people who happen to work somewhere.

        A solution will usually involve more pooling of resources and measures that will be unpopular, like higher rates for people who can afford to pay them. There’s really no silver bullet.

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