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News for week of 2022-12-19 (all current event convos go here)

Make a top-level comment for a new story/topic. Discussions about the topic should be in the replies to the top-level comment. That way things stay organized and every main comment as you scroll down is a different piece of news.

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  • Comments (24)

    • 4

      Updated COVID booster shots reduce the risk of hospitalization, CDC reports.
      https://www.npr.org/2022/12/18/1143833585/covid-bivalent-booster-reduce-hospitalization-risk-cdc

    • 5

      China suddenly switched from “Zero COVID” to “let it rip” and the result is exactly what you would expect: a large portion of the population getting sick all at once, hospitals packed far beyond their capacity, sick doctors required to continue working, people dying faster than crematoriums can dispose of the bodies.

      For anyone in China right now, get vaccinated ASAP. If your last shot was a year ago, time for a booster. Avoid other people if you can. I hope this ends soon.

      For everyone outside China, remember where most of your manufactured items come from. Expect severe supply shortages in the coming months.

      • 1

        It’s like they are two years behind the rest of the world. 

      • 3

        Uh oh, thanks for the heads-up!

        Interestingly, Dr. Feigl-Ding says it’s not “let it rip”:

    • 3

      “The PASTEUR Act, as amended, would provide $6 billion in federal funding over several years to give drugmakers incentive to develop and manufacture lifesaving medications for the small but growing number of infections highly resistant to antibiotics.”

      Is Legislation to Safeguard Americans Against Superbugs a Boondoggle or Breakthrough?

      I think it’s a good thing but I also agree with the point that it’s just bailing out pharma.

    • 3

      Cold weather incoming: “A significant and disruptive storm system is forecast to produce a multitude of weather hazards through midweek, as heavy snowfall, strong winds, and dangerously cold temperatures span from the Northwest through the Plains, the Great Lakes, and the central Appalachians.” (US NWS Short Range Public Discussion, https://origin.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/discussions/hpcdiscussions.php?disc=pmdspd )

      I’m re-posting this from last week, since the cold front and storms are still current events. Linking to National Weather Service details this time.
      National Forecast Maps: https://www.weather.gov/forecastmaps
      Short Range Forecast Map: https://origin.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/basicwx/basicwx_ndfd.php

      • 3

        I agree with all the recommendations everyone has made but I have one more. 

        Last month, my wife and I were in NYC and went to LaGuardia for a 7am flight home. It was then that we found out our (2) flights had been canceled without explanation, but probably crew shortages. We had to wait until that evening to get another flight. We did not get an email, text or carrier application update. 

        My wife was glad I keep 10′ charging cables in my carry-on bag. Scrambled eggs, toast and coffee was only $69… The lesson learned was to check flight schedules before we leave the hotel every time from now on. 

      • 5

        We’re getting a hard freeze in Florida this Friday night. Most of USA will be worse. Most people in USA need to be protecting their pipes over the next few days. Check your local temperature forecasts for the next few days, focusing on nighttime lows.

        And here’s a helpful video that UnderprepRacoon shared on Discord about how to protect the pipes in your house. I’m practicing this technique now in case I need it tomorrow.

    • 4
      • 3

        This story definitely caught my attention as it made me realize a gap in my travel preps. I’m quite the fan of traveling light and though I usually bring enough snacks to get me through a flight, I don’t typically bring enough to sustain me for several days. This particular airport is quite isolated – about a 45 minute drive to the city – and in a terrible storm like this there is really no way in or out.  Apparently many of the airport workers couldn’t get in to work (and thus not able to open the stores, cafes, etc) and of course the passengers couldn’t get out to buy food somewhere else.  

        Though many of my preps are quite suitable for this situation (I always travel with an inflatable pillow, keep all my medications and essentials in my carry-on in addition to a change of clothes, laundry soap, etc) it did make me realize I need to up my “snackage”.  Or at the very least, if I sense there is a problem, purchase as much snackage as possible, as soon as possible, before everything is sold out.  This type of story is yet another reason why I always carry at least an extra week of medication with me, beyond what I need for the trip.  You never know when you’re going to get stuck somewhere.

      • 2

        Thank you for this story! Years ago I spent an uncomfortable night on an air vent in an airport, and added a small, folding piece of a closed-cell foam sleeping pad to my carryon backpack ever since. I always keep some sort of coat with me (rather than in a checked bag). But I usually don’t carry much more than a few snacks with me on the day of a flight — so this is very good food for thought.

      • 3

        I agree on the meds. Always good to have an extra week’s worth with you (but not your whole bottle in case it gets lost or stolen while on travel).

        In addition to the standard advice of asking your doctor for a 90 day supply (which is good), that doesn’t actually give you more meds in total, just more meds at a time. However, if you’re on long term medication, most pharmacies/insurances in the US will let you initiate a refill ~2 days before it runs out. While it’s slow progress, that gradually lets you build up an extra supply you can tuck away in the emergency stash. You can do first-in-first-out to keep those “extras” fresh.

      • 5

        Faster way to get a permanent supply of extra medications:

        At the beginning of the pandemic, concerned about supply shortages, I paid in cash for an extra 90 days of my most important medication. This had zero effect on how often insurance would cover it, so three years later I still have an extra 90 days.

        Picking up a few days early each time is a great trick and more cost effective. But back in 2020 I had an immediate concern about supply shortages. I think now is another of those times.

      • 3

        Yes, one other thing I do that has saved me more times than I care to admit is that I always give my husband three days’ worth of my meds so if mine DO get lost or stolen at least I have 72 hours to come up with a plan.  I have two critical medications and use a contact lens container for him to carry them.  Often when we arrive somewhere far away and I am jet lagged I can’t find anything, even in my tiny bag, so he’s often had to hand over the backup.  

        Per the advice below I initially had trouble getting my doctor to write my refills more often to achieve that plan – I guess they’re on the lookout for people who overfill and then either sell their meds on the open market or give them to friends without insurance (it happens a LOT).  So I just came clean with her and said I was worried about supply chain problems and was stocking up.  She immediately agreed with me and started talking about her preps, and wrote me a new script. Turns out paying in cash was only a few dollars more than what my insurance paid.

      • 4

        “So I just came clean with her and said I was worried about supply chain problems and was stocking up.”

        When I did this in Feb 2020, I told the pharmacist that I was concerned about supply problems when the new virus hit India. She didn’t give me a hard time but probably thought I was crazy…

        A couple months later when I went back for a routine refill, she exclaimed “you’re the one!” She explained that I was the first to make a request like that but others had done the same 1-2 months later.

    • 3

      6.4 magnitude earthquake in Northern California (Humboldt County): https://ground.news/article/magnitude-64-earthquake-strikes-offshore-northern-california_d37dbf

      • 1

        From what I read, it seemed like Rio Dell was particularly hard-hit, which surprised me because it’s up the Eel from Humboldt Bay and so, presumably, further from the offshore epicenter than Ferndale and other downriver towns. But it sounds like the location of the earthquake meant that the waves traveled up the Eel River Valley with particular efficiency and then reverberated off the mountains on either side. (Also, Ferndale is wealthier, so I bet a lot more homes there are bolted to their foundations.) I’ll be interested to see if my impression is reflected in the numbers. They’re saying ~150 red-tagged structures total in the county, but I haven’t seen a breakdown of where those are. (I have seen a ton of photos of collapsed chimneys, though, which makes me happy that my house doesn’t have a real fireplace!) Power was out for ~18 hours in Arcata. My friend there said they got a few seconds’ notice with the ShakeAlert app, which is cool— I think this was the first real test of that system. A really cool historic bridge over the Eel was damaged, but Caltrans has already opened it. Two people died; both were elderly and it sounds like they had heart attacks or some similar-scale medical emergency and couldn’t get help due to the widespread power outages. 

        Personally, I don’t think of a 6.4 as a major earthquake… to me, 6.4 is between “roll over and go back to sleep” and “significant regional disaster”, if definitely nearer to the “significant regional disaster” side of the gap (Loma Prieta was 6.9, but the scale is logarithmic). Of course, it’s still a significant disaster for the people who were hurt or worse or who lost loved ones, and those who suffered serious damage and don’t have the means to rebuild or repair their homes and businesses (which will probably be a lot of people, esp. outside of Ferndale and Arcata), but honestly for Humboldt it’s more like a practice run for the kind of event that folks on the West Coast actually worry about. 

        Anyway… glad it wasn’t worse. I really do love that area. Gonna make a trip next month and see how all my favorite spots are doing. (There is a really cool reinforced brick chimney in Arcata that I’m wondering about!)

      • 1

        @M.E.,

        I would be very interested to know what you find out about the chimney damage.

        We had a new chimney built in our previous home. It was on a cubic yard concrete base and made of chimney block (a specialized, very heavy, cinder block) with a terra cotta liner. The mason advised he could cover the chimney block with red brick for aesthetics but I put that off initially.

        The inside pad that the stove sat on was 2 courses of red brick. The wall behind the stove was one course of red brick against drywall. The thimble (that allows the stovepipe to go through the perimeter wall) was 2′ square double course red brick and the thimble itself was double terra cotta with the sheet metal stove pipe running through it to the chimney itself.

        If an earthquake hit that area, I would be most concerned about the thimble since it’s almost horizontal. I would also be concerned about the brick wall behind the stove because while it’s square, level, plumb and true, it’s not reinforced.

        I think the only emergency mitigation for a damaged chimney would be an external stainless steel chimney, and that would be expensive on a 2 story home.

      • 1

        I don’t know a lot about this, in part because I have assiduously avoided living in homes with brick chimneys, but I’m seeing a lot of photos out of Humboldt where the bulk of the house looks fine, but the entire chimney has collapsed in a pile beside the house— so, total loss. The house in Arcata to which I was referring took the interesting step of building a steel exoskeleton around the existing chimney— i.e., steel rods running along the chimney’s edges and secured at intervals with horizontal rods connecting the vertical rods along the edges. And “rods” is not really the right word, since they looked like they were made of two flat strips attached at a corner, so there is like an inch of the stuff running along each side of each chimney corner edge. There is still plenty of room for bricks to fall out, though, and I’m really curious about how much stability is added by the exoskeleton. I’d never seen anything like it when I stumbled upon it a few years ago, so I took pictures! It’s on a beautiful old home, and I can understand why the owners wouldn’t want to remove or replace the chimney, and maybe would have had trouble doing so given historic status. That part of California has a lot of gorgeous old Victorian farmhouses with brick chimneys just stuck to the side.

        In contrast, the house I grew up in SF, which was built in the 1890s, has two chimneys: The external one servicing the parlor fireplaces, which is metal, and an interior that serviced the kitchens, which is still brick, but totally framed in and drywalled around and hasn’t been used in many decades (and, so not protruding from the roof). We didn’t even know it was there until my mom remodeled the downstairs kitchen in the 1990s. I suspect lots of Victorian homes in SF have old interior chimneys that are no longer in use and are supported by the rest of the house, and exterior chimneys that, if they are still usable, have swapped brick chimneys for metal ones, perhaps following damage in prior earthquakes. 

        I also noticed in the pictures from Humboldt that some newer homes lost chimneys, which was disconcerting. It’s one thing when you see some Edwardian farmhouse with a pile of bricks next to it— I mean, duh, we knew that was going to happen given a good shake— but when it’s a 1970s build with a wider, fatter chimney that has some fake stone decorative facing… I’d always hoped that they knew better by then and that the decorative facade covered some more seismically-informed construction, per code. But I guess not. :/

      • 2

        That exoskeleton sounds like welded flat steel. I am not sure how much that would protect the chimney either. It may prevent it from collapsing but it may not protect it from the mortar failing in place.

        Many homes built in the 1800’s had internal chimneys. The thought was that any radiated heat would stay in the house. Since those chimneys did not have liners, the brick may have been warmed up a bit.

        Shadow boxing old abandoned internal chimneys was common as old homes moved to electric baseboard heat or were retrofitted with forced air systems. My house had the old chimney removed in the attic and second floor but not the first floor. I guess the previous owners gave up? Anyway, it was a big job to take it out, all the way down to the foundation, before I could install the new external chimney. It was about 3,000 lbs of red brick and the last 5′ was full of chimney ash. It took me 16 hours in August in 100F weather. I had sealed the entire room in plastic sheeting to control dust and dumped everything out a window on a slide into a 1 ton truck.

      • 1

        Wow, Shaun— thanks for sharing all that detail; I’m very curious about this stuff but have no engineering or building background (as my explanation of the chimney exoskeleton probably revealed). Def. makes sense that they would put the chimney in the middle of the house in hopes of getting some radiated heating, and sounds like an enormous job to take it apart. Also, the timing on this comment was useful, since I’m at my mom’s for Christmas and was able to check for/talk with her about chimney continuity through the house. On the second floor, you can definitely see where the chimney still runs: Right above where it is downstairs, there is an indentation into the kitchen that looks like it’s just a closet in an adjacent room… but go into the adjacent room and there is no closet in that spot. My mom told me that the chimney continues into the attic. (I’ve never been up there— you have to take a ladder through a trap door over the toilet in the bathroom, so it’s a production.) She also said that the house is off plumb because of the weight of that old chimney pulling down the part where it’s sitting— or, so say the contractors who have worked on it over the 40 years she has owned it. 

        And yeah, interested in your take on the Arcata chimney exoskelton… it makes sense that folks would invest in that even if it doesn’t actually save the chimney for the long-run; just ensuring that it doesn’t collapse on the occupants of the house or passers-by in an earthquake is a win.

    • 5

      The UK government published their first “Resilience Framework” document; a huge win for elevating the profile of preparedness. In a speech to the House of Commons, MP Oliver Dowden announced the publication as follows:

      “The UK Government’s resilience framework articulates our ongoing plan to strengthen the systems and capabilities that underpin the UK’s resilience to all civil contingencies risks, from extreme weather to supply chain challenges or public health emergencies. It is ensuring that as well as managing immediate crises, we maintain a greater collective focus on preparation and preventing crises from happening in the first place.”
      (Full speech here.)

      The document is packed with ideas and plans to increase national preparedness: confirming the introduction of a new system of emergency alerts to mobile phones, promising mechanisms for local communities to hold local leaders to account for delivering resilience, and announcing annual surveys of the public’s perceived threats.

      I was especially impressed with one of the key pillars of the framework: “Resilience is a ‘whole of society’ endeavour, so we must be more transparent and empower everyone to make a contribution.” The document itself is a testament to that, with the proposed measures spanning the government itself, the private and public sectors and the wider public.

      Read the UK Government’s Resilience Framework here.

    • 3

      in Feb this year the Channon a village in northern new south wales Australia was hit by record breaking floods .  During and  After the floods all lines of communication  where down  , no one could for help or supplies etc . Since then Cb radios have become very much the tool to have with 70 households now using radios for reliable way to communicate when all else fails.Just a great way for people  to come together to help each other when modern  technology just can not cut it. Keep on prepping

    • 3

      The streets of Seattle are covered with ice causing dramatic multiple-vehicle accidents (including a lot of parked cars) and making it difficult for pedestrians to walk.  I looked for a good news article covering the situation but I’ve learned more from watching TikTok videos.

      This is a good time to review @matthew.’s post Crampons (ice traction for your feet).  Also see GearLab’s The 4 Best Snow Grips of 2022.

    • 2

      Hi I’m a prepper from way back (45 years)  I was instrested in outdoor  living in high school the military in Nom tought me a lot I keep serching for info. Once help teach a survial school.  I worked at a sporting goods company for a while selling Guns.  Thought about the limitations of any gun.  supply of amno  loudness.  I went into archery bigtime first compounds opended a shop a tought.  But I then started looking at this type of bows limitations.  One couldn’t repair in the field and heavy.  I then started looking at others I made  longbows for a while and realized that this was just a bent stick and string.  My thoughts are If one cna’t get with in 20 yd of and animal they are not hunting just walking in the woods.  Plus If you have to shot a person it will kill quiet and get your arrow back.  I’m 81 with a heart condition so I limit my movememts at this point I have 2 months supply of food 6 different bows over 300 arrows 3 swards and at least 100 different knifes in my home gates have alomes 2 smale dogs and $10,000 dollars stached   If are nation goes the way I think banks will be the first to close and cash will be king  I carriy a bow 12 hunting arrows and 2 large knifes in my car as well as 2 on my person