News roundup for Tue, Feb 23, 2021

Texas is still reeling after last week’s massive, state-wide power and gas outage. It wasn’t just the inability to keep warm that created problems—water pipe bursts did historic damage to homes and businesses. Here’s a pipe burst map from Austin:

Plumbing aisles are packed in TX, as you can imagine:

The plumbing isle of a Home Depot in Dallas Tx this afternoon… from pics

Pipe bursts coupled with people burning whatever they could to stay warm was a recipe for uncontrolled structure fires—can’t put the fire out if there’s no water coming out of the hydrant:

Fire and smoke-inhalation deaths in TX are adding to the tally of those who died from hypothermia.

Utilities price-gouging Texans to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars during the crisis is somehow legal:

Here’s a handy tool to help monitor power outages across the US.

The world has over 112.25 million COVID cases.  The world has gained ~3 million cases in the last week. There have been nearly 2.5 million deaths in total. The US has over 28.8 million cases and has gained over 600,000 cases in the last week. Over 512,000 Americans have died. The US has gained over 56,000 new cases since yesterday—case gain is still declining. I remain hopeful that with COVID vaccines in full swing we’re experiencing terminal decline:

The uptick in antibiotic use during the pandemic has some concerned that antibiotic resistance in pathogens could worsen. Antibiotic stewardship fell by the wayside in clinical settings in the last year, and it will have be ramped back up if we want to prevent a scourge that can also kill millions.

A method for differentiating between coronavirus antibodies is discussed in Nature—this is interesting because cross-reactivity between coronaviruses has been a known problem. This work may help the development of future pan-coronavirus antibody tests.

Novel peptides may trick the pandemic virus into binding with proteins that look like an ACE2 receptor, but aren’t—rendering the virus inactive before it can infect the host cell. These peptides could be made into a nasal spray and used therapeutically in the future.

Millions of refugees around the world are left out of COVID vaccine programs. Over 130 countries don’t even have a vaccine program. If we want terminal decline to stay terminal, these disparities must be addressed.

Here are some good recommendations for preparing for your vaccine, like don’t take anti-inflammatories BEFORE you get your shot—they can dampen immune response.

The Paycheck Protection Program has been beleaguered with fraud, and it’s causing delays. Biden wants to shift the focus of the program to small businesses:

South Africa got its variant under control without the help of vaccines: