News roundup for Tue, Jan 18, 2022

The US is desperately short on blood. People are dying in hospitals from a lack of blood supply. Please consider donating. If folks tell me in the comments they’re going to go donate, I will pop on that n95 and go donate in solidarity, too.

A volcano in Tonga erupted in spectacular fashion this week. The plume was visible from space and was about the size of Germany. Shockwaves in the atmosphere were also visible from space. Tsunami warnings and advisories were widespread. My family was under a tsunami advisory from this as well, although nothing occurred in the vicinity where I live. Tonga’s communication lines were severed and countries are still assessing the fallout:

Russia continues with aggressive rhetoric as the military asset buildup near Ukraine continues. The Defense Minister of the UK has written a blunt summary of Russia’s aims here—including the aim to discourage countries from volitionally joining NATO. Farcically, both the US and Russia are making claims that the other has plans for false flag attacks in Ukraine:

FedEx wants anti-missile lasers on some of its planes so it can more safely fly crews and cargo over dangerous or contested areas. I find this development slightly disturbing. People are going to get their Shein hauls come missiles or no missiles! Sarcasm helps me process headlines like this.

There was a massive chlorine chemical fire in New Jersey a few days ago. Folks were told to close their windows but were not evacuated. Of note, if there is a chlorine chemical fire or spill in your neighborhood, LEAVE whether authorities tell you to or not. Winds can shift and chlorine gas is exceptionally deadly:

I’m still keeping my eyes on the avian flu. It’s still spreading:

The White House plans to allocate monies towards the repair of tens of thousands of bridges in the US. Infrastructure repair and maintenance are desperately needed, and I’m happy to see initiatives like this one.

The world has nearly 331.1 million COVID cases. The world has gained 20.8 million cases in the last week—the largest gain I’ve seen during this pandemic. There have been nearly 5.6 million deaths in total. The US has had about 67.5 million cases cumulatively. The US gained about 5.4 million cases in the last seven days. Over 874,000 Americans have died during the pandemic—over 12,000 in the last week. The US gained over 373,000 new cases on Sunday and over 323,000 by later afternoon Monday. Cases seem to be peaking in the US and are likely to start declining soon. The case decline is nice to visualize:

I don’t know how accurate case counts are going to be in the coming weeks:

Two thirds of Poland’s pandemic advisors have quit, citing government failures to respond to their recommendations. Less than 58% of the population in Poland is fully vaccinated, and less than a quarter have received a booster dose. Over 100,000 have died of COVID in a population of fewer than 38 million people.

DeSantis says Florida won’t uphold the health care worker COVID vaccine mandate.

The White House is opening up a website for ordering free, at-home COVID tests starting Wednesday. Insurers are also now required to provide COVID tests or help to reimburse (in part) the costs of tests you now purchase. Here’s a breakdown of how that works. The process is not exactly easy. And getting the free tests shipped to you could take almost two weeks.

The CDC is a few years behind on recommending high quality masks. N95s offer the best protection, and I will make that recommendation public if the CDC won’t. The CDC is hesitant to tell people to wear an n95 because they’re afraid folks won’t prefer them. They are less comfortable and they’re harder to wear for long periods of time. But n95s are still the safest option if you’re going to be indoors near lots of other people:


    • pnwkraken

      I’ve never donated blood before but if there was ever a time to do it I guess this would be it. I’m in, I’ll make my appointment tomorrow. 

      8 |
      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor pnwkraken

        Excellent! I made my appointment today as well.

        5 |
      • July LewisContributor pnwkraken

        Yay! I recommend hydrating before you donate, makes it faster and easier. If you forget, ask for a bottle of water when you get there and drink while you do the paperwork. 

        3 |
    • brownfox-ffContributor

      What you can do about it:

      • Plant a garden. Do you plan to grow anything next season? Depending on your hemisphere and gardening zone, it may be a good time to think about what food you want to plant. Get a head start with the Beginner’s Guide to Gardening and Top Ten Foods
      • Check your Go Bag. Is it light enough to carry? Could you grab it and leave on short notice if you needed to? Have you practiced walking anywhere with it or putting it on?
      • Plan an evacuation route. And a backup route. If you needed to leave, where would you go, and how would you get there? Can you practice driving your route?
      • Check your map. Do you need a map for your route?
      • Check your mask supply. Do you have an N95 mask? Could you get one?
      • Keep building that pantry
      • Make a list of no-cook recipes that you or your family enjoy. Could you practice making one?
      • Get vaccinated. Check your schedule for a booster dose, if eligible.
      • Read a book. Unplug
      • Exercise. Is there a way you can build something into your routine?

      Stay safe everyone

      11 |
    • Mike Coate

      In case anyone has concerns about the quality of N95’s for sale online (looking at you, Amazon), I’ve found  Project95 to be a reliable source:

      5 |
    • Hardened

      Sure wish those at-home tests worked better at detecting Omicron.  I no longer see them as useful.

      2 |
      • Eric Hardened

        They are less sensitive, but not completely useless. You can also boost the sensitivity by swabbing the throat rather than the nose, which is definitely ignoring the official instructions that were written for previous variants.

        5 |
    • Hardened

      “Cases seem to be peaking in the US and are likely to start declining soon.”

      The hyperlink in that sentence points to an article from last year.

      1 |
    • Hardened

      I made an appointment to donate blood.

      7 |
    • Mr. Mark

      Everyone should donate blood as often as the schedule allows! It is almost painless (the needle poke) and takes very little time considering the benefits others can get! Also you may be, like me, carrying a rare blood type that is in even greater demand. They call me when it’s time and I make the appointment right then. Go save a life or two! 

      10 |
    • Karl Winterling

      Respirators weren’t recommended until now because of concerns people wouldn’t use them properly or wouldn’t prefer them. You won’t get a proper seal unless you shave your beard or stubble. People tend to prefer respirators with earloops, even though the N95 design allows for a tighter fit.

      And yeah, it’s a good idea to donate blood now if you have time to do it.

      1 |
      • Eric Karl Winterling

        The real reason respirators weren’t recommended before is that we had a supply shortage. They were trying to keep the average non-prepper calm to avoid mass panic.

        Imagine trying to protect yourself from smoke inhalation by holding a cloth in front of your face. The smoke easily flows around the cloth unless you put a lot of effort into closing all the gaps around the edges. And to a lesser extent smoke can also pass through the cloth. Wouldn’t work at all, and you’d immediately know it. Same with the masks most people wear for COVID – almost useless.

        Respirators are different. They seal well around the edges, and they block about 95% of viruses that try to pass through them. N95 respirators provide great protection. Cloth masks do not.

        2 |
      • Karl Winterling Eric

        I think there hasn’t been an N95 shortage for a few months. I’ve also been able to get KN95 and KF94 respirators for a while now, at least since the beginning of 2021.

        3 |
      • Eric Karl Winterling

        Agreed. No N95 shortage right now, and I highly recommend getting at least one. I think a mask is good for about a week for people who bring them to work every day. Mine last 6 months (until the strap weakens) because I work from home and only need them for shopping trips and other errands. If the strap weakens and no longer holds the mask tightly to your face, time for a new one.

        Even with our government’s efforts to push people away from mask use entirely for the first month, and toward other masks like cloth later, N95s were still in very short supply for a large portion of 2020. KN95 were much easier to get, but don’t fit my face well enough to form a good seal. I haven’t tried KF94.

        I personally upgraded from N95 disposable to P100 full face mask in response to Omicron, just because it’s so much more infectious that I felt more protection was warranted. I still recommend at least N95 to others, which is what protected me for the first two years, and which is still probably enough. But I’ve chosen an even higher level of protection for myself.

        5 |
    • Stephanie ArnoldContributor

      Thanks to Eric for pointing out to me that the data that is reportedly no longer going to be reported daily is not the same data people generally rely on for daily counts.

      5 |
    • Stephanie ArnoldContributor

      I’m reading that the FedEx request for lasers was denied (still laughing about this). Also, I was able to order those tests online and the process for ordering was easy. Now I wait to see how the shipping goes…

      And to be clear, the website is already working, so go order tests!

      3 |
    • SimpleZippo

      Stephanie, THANK YOU! After seeing this and your push for the blood donations, somehow I was inspired to check eligibility yet again.

      I haven’t been able to donate because I lived in Europe, but as it turns out the CDC made some changes and I’m now eligible! I have a blood type that is in demand so I’m glad to finally be able to help! if you don’t know if you’re eligible, check, I was able to call the red cross and the person I spoke to was really nice as well.

      4 |
    • European

      Chlorine is heavier than air, meaning it falls down to the ground and can’t travel far. Closing the windows for people in residential areas should be good enough vs the costly and risky evacuation. Even if you have a go-bag, evacuation is a major overkill unless it literally happens next door.

      0 |
      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor European

        It’s so toxic when inhaled that I would not personally be okay with staying in place if something like that happened very close to me. Evacuations of cross-wind locations are almost always called for in actual chlorine plant fires, at minimum. And like I said, winds can change. I think in this case the fire didn’t actually reach the chlorine, so disaster was averted. Lake Charles had a huge chlorine plant fire after one of the more recent hurricanes. That one was so big we were short on chlorine!

        2 |
      • Ockham Stephanie Arnold

        The DOT’s Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) is a good, free resource for evaluating the various hazardous materials that get moved around the country via rail and truck on a daily basis. It’s meant for first responders to be able to be able to quickly size up a situation and gives some basic first steps for them to take (including isolation and evacuation distances). For preppers it at least gives an idea of how nasty a particular substance is. In this case, the ERG points out (as you did in the roundup) that while chlorine is indeed heavier than air, it can also travel substantial distances if wind conditions are right.

        3 |
      • Carlotta SusannaStaff Ockham

        Interesting resource, thanks for sharing.

        1 |