News roundup for Thur, Feb 18, 2021

The massive cold front over much of the US is causing catastrophe and crisis in Texas, home to more than 29 million people. People are experiencing freezing temperatures inside their homes as the state’s energy grid and gas pipelines have failed. Approximately 4 million people have suffered from power outages during some of the coldest weather Texas has ever seen. Some have lived without electricity and heat for days, many have no water or have a boil water notice (and are unable to boil water without gas or electricity). Gas stations are unable to pump gas. Roads are impassible. There are huge lines at stores. At least 25 people have died (and this is likely a vast underestimate), livestock and pets are dying, crops have failed. Some hospitals without water and power are evacuating patients. Many hundreds have suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from using their cars, outdoor cooking instruments, or unvented open flames indoors to stay warm. Some help is on the way, but Texas needs a whole lot more.

Here’s our roundup of what’s happened in Texas and takeaway prepping lessons.

California and Texas aren’t the only states that have suffered from climate-related, state-wide public utility failures. Energy and public utilities producers need to weatherize their operations in every state. We are all increasingly vulnerable. Some states are well weatherized, but perhaps for the weather they anticipate. When 100-year events are happening every year, it’s time to expect the unexpected.

Multiple automobile manufacturers have shuttered their plants in the US because of the massive winter storm and because of a chip shortage.

The world has over 110.6 million COVID cases.  The world is gaining 1.3 million cases every three to four days. There have been over 2.4 million deaths in total. The US has nearly 28.5 million cases. Over 500,000 Americans have died. The number of deaths per day in the US is declining, now at 2,500 per day v. 3,000 per day previously. The US gained 71,000 new cases yesterday—daily case growth is also declining. The US and Mexico lead the world in daily deaths from COVID.

Vaccinations are undoubtedly helping to turn the tides. Hopefully we’re seeing terminal decline and not a lull before a variant-driven surge:

Can we reach herd immunity through vaccinations if a large proportion of adults refuse vaccination? Maybe not. It might be critical for children to be vaccinated as well.

We’ve mentioned before that bone marrow cells are showing up in the lungs of patients with severe COVID disease. These cells, known as megakaryocytes, might be clogging up blood vessels in the brain and contributing to “brain fog.” Wonderful.

Helpful information from a physician and friend, Dr. Simkin:

If you are in a high-risk group and start having mild/moderate symptoms and test positive then talk to your Dr. about getting monoclonal antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies must be given within the first 10 days of symptoms. They are indicated if you don’t yet need oxygen and are not hospitalized. They are best given in the first few days of symptoms as they help prevent the need for hospitalization. Bamlanivimab and etesevimab have been given Emergency Use Authorization for this treatment.

Masks and social distancing wiped out flu this year. It might be wise for us to normalize mask-wearing during flu season, however tired we might all be of wearing them:

Federal mortgage and foreclosure relief has been extended through June. The moratorium on evictions for rent-payers is still set to expire at the end of March.

Software both helps and hampers the vaccine efforts in India. The US has also had a chaotic vaccine roll-out. Many large countries are having trouble vaccinating at the pace they would prefer. China is also behind on its vaccination targets.

Variants might be recombining into hybrid COVID variants, just like other coronaviruses do. Oh, goody.



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