News for week of 2023-01-30 (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.


  • Comments (43)

    • 4

      The world is ‘dangerously unprepared’ to handle the next pandemic, the Red Cross says in a scathing report. The IFRC said that countries “need to start preparing now, because our world is becoming increasingly hazardous” as it cautioned against not only disease outbreaks but also climate- and weather-related disasters.


    • 6

      Kind of relevant to what Carlotta Susanna posted: Mink on a Spanish farm caught bird flu. Is the virus adapting to mammals? https://thebulletin.org/2023/01/mink-on-a-spanish-farm-caught-bird-flu-is-the-virus-adapting-to-mammals/

    • 1

      British people will be paid to use less electricity on Monday https://www.bbc.com/news/business-64367504

    • 1

      An ‘unprecedented pandemic of avian flu’ is wreaking havoc on the U.S. poultry industry. Humans may be at risk too, experts warn

      H5N1 spread among dozens of species about 15 years ago. At the time, there was a concern it would become a human pandemic. While some people did get it, and ~50% died, it never took off.

      Fortune article

    • 1

      Michael Osterholm: [00:50:46] Well, Chris, quite honestly, flu in our sphere, continuing to play out exactly as I’d predicted Over the last several episodes. Flu hospitalizations would continue to drop dramatically with the hospitalization rate during the week ending on January 14. Over three fold lower than it was the week before and nearly 11 fold lower than the peak during the week ending on December 3rd. This has turned out to be, as I predicted, an early but otherwise completely ordinary flu year in terms of the amount of transmission and hospitalizations we experienced. This was not an example of a tripledemic, as I’ve said before. This is exactly what we saw in the southern hemisphere earlier in 2022, where they too experienced record high case numbers and hospitalizations early in the flu year for that particular week of surveillance, meaning that every year, as I pointed out before, we count our weeks of surveillance by week one, first week of January to week 52, last week of December. And yes, if you suddenly see influenza at week 42 in the northern Hemisphere, that’s really early. You usually don’t see it until late forties or early fifties into the next one, two and three weeks.

      Michael Osterholm: [00:51:58] So all this was and I don’t say all in a sense that it wasn’t still a significant issue, but it was an early flu season that this appeared to be out of whack. But there is a very important lesson here that I fear we have not learned, and that is, is that the number of cases and hospitalizations, while within what we’d expect to see in a typical flu year, it doesn’t mean that the impact was not significant. We saw health care systems across the country pushed to their breaking point, trying to keep up with an ordinary number of seasonal flu and RSV cases because of the staffing shortages, burnout and lack of available beds, beds that have actually been taken out of service for reimbursement reasons over the last 5 to 6 years. The influenza numbers haven’t changed, but the capacity of our health care system has, and this is just one of the many lasting public health impacts of the pandemic that we will see for years to come that extend far beyond just COVID cases and deaths. We have got to address this issue.

      (transcript available at the link too)

      Osterholm Update Podcast #123

    • -1

      Are hospital beds a big problem?

      From Dr. Osterholm’s podcast December 29, 2022

      Michael Osterholm: [00:49:08]…So I want to just bring that point up, because there has been this misconception that this was a very different flu year. And there’s a reason I’m bringing this up not to say, “Ha ha, you know, it’s not all that bad.” It has been challenging. But for two reasons. One is what it was the root cause of the challenges that we had in our health care systems. And what I don’t hear talked about by almost anyone is that we have basic reduced our health care system in this country to respond to surge capacity to almost zero. There have been several media stories that fortunately have tried to explain the fact that we’ve had such a reduction in the number of beds that are currently in our hospitals, particularly pediatric beds, because of reimbursement. We’ve seen a major loss of health care workers. We see 30% of our hospital beds today occupied by individuals who should be in long term care or stepdown care. But that’s not available. So they have to stay in the hospital using up resources there. We’ve seen our emergency rooms literally become major mental health holding areas, particularly for adolescents. We’ve seen them overrun by other than emergency issues. In a sense, the system doesn’t have the capacity to respond to almost any surge of some nature. And so, yes, when all these reports were coming out about how overrun hospitals were, they were. But it wasn’t because we had a big increase in influenza cases. The same is true with RSV. To the extent that, yes, it was increased, it went up fast and it came down quickly. The one area in this country where we are most vulnerable is in pediatrics. Pediatric beds have been reduced at even a much greater rate than adult beds. And so the point that we need to address is why did that happen? We are going to see more average flu years challenge our health care system and we are not dealing with it. We have a 1968 Medicare financed health care system in this country that is broken and is not going to provide us with this surge capacity we need. So that’s an important message. That’s what we should be focused on. And very few people are. They’d rather focus on, oh my God, how bad it is with this surge. The second reason why this is important is if you have multiple respiratory transmitted viruses in a community, we’re still trying to understand this concept of interference. Does one virus dominate in a way that holds back other virus transmission? And when you think of COVID right now with both RSV and influenza dropping dramatically in terms of case numbers, I think that is not good news for COVID. Not that I want to have flu or RSV in the community either, but I think it could surely provide an enhanced opportunity for SARS-CoV-2 virus transmission. So let me just say, at this point, I suspect that for the next few weeks, we’re going to continue to see the influenza numbers drop. We’re going to see RSV drop and does mean it can’t come back. I’m the first to acknowledge there could be a secondary surge that we see that has happened in some flu years. We did not see it in the southern hemisphere this summer. It didn’t. When it got done, it got done. The last point I was going to say is I think we need to go back and reexamine how we report out on flu numbers, particularly deaths. Most people don’t realize that the number of deaths reported in the United States is actually based on a statistical model. Now, that statistical model is largely based on the fact that flu disproportionately hits the older age population, particularly with age three and two. That’s not happening right now. Yes, it’s there 6.1% of the nursing homes in a surveillance system in this country reported at least a single case. But I also think that when you have a season where it’s primarily kids, primarily age three and two and kids, the death numbers may not hold. And I think this is going to be a challenge for us in public health to go back and reexamine our models, to say when you have a flu season like this, is it also representative in such a way that we report out 9,000 deaths, etc.? What does that really mean? And I’m not so sure that I think those numbers really reflect what’s been happening.

      • 3

        Could you post a TL;DR next time? What’s the main point, and how is it relevant to prepping?

      • 1

        TL;DR – In the event of a mass casualty/pandemic event, do not expect local area surge capacity. This includes seasonal influenza. You may have to wait for additional, further distant help after considerable delay. Become accustomed to delays in emergency room services. Develop your own medical care skills (first aid, EMT, etc) and supply beyond what you currently maintain.

    • -5

      This might be uncomfortable for most of us to read, and it’s not the last word, but it is surprising to see in NEWSWEEK and worth reading:

      “I staunchly supported the efforts of the public health authorities when it came to COVID-19…I was wrong. We in the scientific community were wrong. And it cost lives.”

      “…perhaps more important than any individual error was how inherently flawed the overall approach of the scientific community was, and continues to be. It was flawed in a way that undermined its efficacy and resulted in thousands if not millions of preventable deaths.”

      The comments are often my favorite part.

      Newsweek COVID opinion article

    • 5

      Change in the prescription requirements for Paxlovid, a COVID treatment that needs to be taken within days of getting sick. If you have a known recent exposure and are showing symptoms, you don’t need to wait for a positive test.


    • 4

      These benefits will disappear when Biden ends the Covid national and public health emergencies in May https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/30/politics/may-11-end-of-covid-and-public-health-emergencies/index.html

    • 2

      Pay no attention to that chinese spy balloon floating over our  missile fields in Montana….or the huge grain processing plant the chinese wanted to build just 12 miles from our other missile field in North Dakota until the Air Force stopped them.


      • 1

        And how is this relevant to prepping? What different actions should we take because of this? I mean, foreign investments, and countries spying on each other is not really news.

      • 2

        A near-peer foreign power publicly admitting to penetrating our airspace has no implication for emergency preparedness? Tell that to Japan or Taiwan, our dependents for whom China is an apocalyptic threat. 

      • 1

        The rule of this forum is “This forum is a place for anyone to talk about prepping — not for preppers to talk about anything.” 

        Geopolitics is an interesting topic and it’s worth to keep an eye on it as it can have direct repercussions,  but my question still stands: how is this news influencing your prepping? What are you doing differently to prep because of this news?

      • 1

        Would you consider getting an extra Baofeng if this, or an event like it, led to sanctions?

      • 3

        If we were actively in an open conflict with China with risks of sanctions, yes. But definitely not just because we found a spy balloon.

        Besides, with the supply chain disruptions caused by Covid I’ve made the effort to get stuff I need from China for the past three years, so in reality, I’m not waiting for sanctions to hit China anyway.

    • 2

      Power company charged with manslaughter in Northern California fire deaths

    • 7

      Eye drops causing vision loss and death due to contamination with drug resistant bacteria.

      Two specific brands recalled due to recent issues: EzriCare Artificial Tears and Delsam Pharma’s Artificial Tears. The manufacturer is Global Pharma Healthcare and I don’t have a full list of other brands of eye drops they manufacture, which would also be affected.


      In general, eye drops should be in tiny, single use containers. Every recent case involved a larger eyedrop bottle which is used repeatedly over a month or so and is prone to contamination.

      • 1

        Yikes, thanks for highlighting this. 

        I looked for a list of their products and I found this: they produce a lot of other eye drops but it seems that they only mention the drugs used but not the actual names of the specific eye drops. Still, just better staying away from that brand for now.

      • 3

        Oops, forgot to paste the link lol https://global-pharma.com/products.html

      • 1

        Update: Another eye care product by the same manufacturer has been recalled due to contamination. The product name is Delsam Pharma Artificial Eye Ointment.

        Whatever brand of eye products you use, find out which company manufactures it. Global Pharma manufacturers all of the affected products, and they’re not sharing the list of potentially affected products.

    • 4

      Rio Verde, a neighborhood of Scottsdale, Arizona, has been cut off from water supplies due to drought. Here’s a first-hand account if you’re interested in learning how people deal with this kind of scenario (which could become more common in the coming years). 

      Arizona city officials cut off our community’s water supply. My family has relied on paper plates, 3-minute showers, and lots of bottled water to avoid a potential $1,300 monthly water bill.

      • 2

        Like you said, it was interesting to read a first-hand account. I was amazed at how much water they use per day when they barely do dishes, laundry, shower, etc.  I’m feeling like my water preps need a boost — a couple gallons a day really won’t cut it if I factor in cooking, washing, etc. for a longer term emergency. 

      • 2

        Showering takes an enormous amount of water. Our emergency water stores are mostly for drinking. We’ll replace showers with wipes or sponge baths in an emergency.

      • 3

        @Amy S.,

        You can get ‘Navy shower heads’ that restrict flow but increase pressure. I have used these for +30 years and they are great. My daughters with long, thick hair never complained either. If you really need to restrict the water, you get wet and move the wire handle to the opposite side, this stops the flow. When you’re lathered up, move the handle back and you can rinse.

         Navy shower head

      • 1

        I’ve never seen one like that — thanks for the tip!

      • 2

        That is a very interesting account, might be worth its own thread to discuss what this family is trying to accomplish. I keep meaning to do some water-related prep test runs, which would include keeping track of how much water I personally use when I can more easily track where everything is going. (How much for washing hands, dishes, drinking, showering, etc.)

        This account is also super interesting from a risk calculations perspective: this family felt the trade-off was acceptable (benefits of close to family, room for animals, cost, availability) to deal with the risk of only receiving water from a water hauling company (no municipal water, no well, no rainwater harvesting system). Looks like Rio Verde, AZ has an average annual rainfall of ~14″. Nearby Phoenix’s average is ~40″ (which still confuses me, but I guess it’s effects of the valley) and for comparison, Tucson AZ (home of Brad Lancaster, rainwater harvesting advocate and expert) gets ~11″.

        Here’s another article discussing this situation: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2023/01/19/scottsdale-rio-verde-foothills-water-crisis/11081256002/

        Lots of interesting takeaways: a long-standing vulnerability that didn’t come to pass for years, and allowed people to live normally during that time period. People facing a rough housing market and general cost of living increases looking for a way to reduce those costs (through living in an unincorporated area). Companies (developers) that identified loopholes to increase their profit, downplayed the nature of the vulnerability, and maybe even obfuscated the process by which residents could do their own research. This is a very interesting current event from a preparedness planning standpoint.

      • 2

        It is interesting that homeowners were able to get mortgages or building financing in a ‘wildcat’ subdivision without water rights.

        Keep in mind that most banks make their profit on the loan origination, the fees. Very few banks hold the mortgage to maturity as you make your payments. The banks sell the mortgage to mutual funds and pension funds who may not know the details.

        This creates ‘moral risk’ for the loan originator (the bank) because they don’t have any interest in what happens after they sell the mortgage. The loan originator is interested in fees and selling the mortgage, not being sure the homeowner pays it off.

      • 1

        That is also an interesting point, @Shaun !