News roundup for Tue, Sep 14, 2021

The container ship bottleneck on the West Coast continues to grow:

Medicare might cover vision, hearing, and dental soon. The proposal to expand Medicare still must pass multiple legislative hurdles:

It’s also possible that a broad childcare subsidy could be passed in the near future which would help millions of American families.

The Gulf Coast just cannot catch a break:

Here’s a breakdown of where storm damage is likely to be the worst:

Japan warns of imminent suicide bomb attacks in Southeast Asia, and the warning is a surprise to multiple countries in the region.

Chinese warships are making a show of force off the coast of Alaska in much the same way ours do in the South China Sea. Everyone is just taking a nice jaunt around open, international waters (read: mild sarcasm).

Drought conditions in Syria and Iraq are dangerous and are threatening food supplies that sustain millions. Water scarcity is already causing people to migrate within these regions. Pressure is mounting for Turkey to release dam water downstream—there could be cause for conflict here.

The world has over 226 million COVID cases. The world has gained 4.1 million cases in the last week. There have been nearly 4.7 million deaths in total. The US has a cumulative 42.1 million cases. The US gained over 1.1 million cases in the last seven days. Nearly 680,000 Americans have died during the pandemic. The US gained almost 100,000 new cases on Sunday, and over 78,000 by late afternoon Monday. 1,400 people are dying per day in the US based on a 7-day average. The US, UK, India, and Iran have the largest case gains over the last week. The COVID toll in the US has surpassed that of the 1918 flu (675K deaths by 1920):

Los Angeles Unified School District, one of the largest school districts in the world, plans to mandate COVID vaccines for students aged 12 and up. Unvaccinated students may opt for distance learning options.

COVID mitigations strategies in Australia continue to stray way into “Nanny State” territory:

There’s some evidence that SARS-CoV-2 can persist in the gut (and be shed) for a very long time:

A New York hospital had to pause L&D services after staffing shortages became so severe the service could not function. The hospital lost staff to resignations after vaccines mandates.

Many countries are over the hump with Delta, but they’re still not back down to baseline. Generally you begin to see exponential decay in the curve once the peak has passed. The fact that that is not happening in many places means something, but what that something is I don’t exactly know. The start of the school year for children might be explain some of it:

Pfizer/BioNTech plan to seek EUA for children ages 5-12 in the next few weeks:

The fight over the booster plan is still raging, this time with the CDC saying that the White House is being too ambitious in its desired timeline. The counterargument is that the CDC, slowed by bureaucracy, is not agile enough to follow the science (like data from Israel) in a timely manner. Ultimately, boosters will be helpful:


    • EzlyAmuzzed

      Thank you for addressing the Lancet article that stated boosters are not worth it. I did read that yesterday and was wondering about its validity. I will still be taking the booster when it is available to me.

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor EzlyAmuzzed

        There could be an argument (maybe not a very good one) that data from Israel is not generalizable to the US population–but given the severe death toll in this country and the clear benefit Israel has had from their booster program, I say the benefits of boosters probably outweigh the risks. The FDA and CDC want the benefits to unquestionably outweigh the risks, and this is the crux of the tension between those agencies and the White House right now. 

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      • EzlyAmuzzed Stephanie Arnold

        A couple of weeks ago the county I live in was the top in the nation for percent positive tested, with today having a 15% positivity rate. I’m going to take every precaution I can!

        BTW have you seen this Covid Risk Calculator that the Smithsonian created? Not sure how accurate it is but it is very detailed and easy to use, wondering what you think of it. 

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor EzlyAmuzzed

        That tool is really interesting! I hadn’t seen it. It lists my risks of working in a hospital as astronomically high despite vaccination status, which is true.

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      • Sbesch Stephanie Arnold

        In the long run, I think there’s a lot to be said for sending vaccines to countries that haven’t had meaningful access to them yet before we start distributing a third round for anyone other than (possibly) the most vulnerable here in The States. Large pools of unprotected populations are just massive petri dishes from which variants will continue to emerge as long as the virus is spreading unchecked.  Any one of those could ultimately (a) escape the current vaccines and (b) be more deadly than the variants we’ve seen to date. The devastation that would wreak across the planet would far outweigh the fractional percentage of already-vaccinated people in the US who might die in the meantime.

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Sbesch

        I agree in part, but I also know that millions of doses are being wasted in the US because of low uptake. Once distributed, there’s really no mechanism to un-distribute and safely redistribute to other nations. In the case of doses that could be used as boosters instead of wasted, I say use as boosters. In the meantime, policies need to focus on doling out doses to countries in need. 

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