News roundup for Tue, Mar 9, 2021

The Texas agriculture sector is down 600 million dollars after winter storm Uri. These losses could compound already rising food prices. Citrus was hit the hardest.

Rooftop solar is a disruptive industry—it could be the nail in the Texas power grid coffin, or it could save it. Texas doesn’t yet have solar incentives like other states do, so it will be a while before solar takes off. Some argue that Texas isn’t ready for massive investment in renewables, fearing it will detract from strengthening the existing grid. I’m sure the Whale Oil industry argued the same when the electrification of America began—they did when hydrocarbons became the fuel of choice

Iceland has had nearly 20,000 earthquakes in a week. A volcanic eruption is expected. Iceland has more than 20 active volcanoes.

The La Niña cold-weather system that we’ve seen before could launch a wicked tornado season this year. Let February’s cold snap and 2011’s La Niña weather pattern (think Joplin) be a warning.

Housing prices in big cities are rising, but rents are diving. This unprecedented divergence is a neon beacon of the impact of income inequality—the rich are getting richer, and the not-rich are getting poorer.

8 million pigs dead in China from swine fever.

The world has nearly 117.7 million COVID cases.  The world has gained 2.7 million cases in a week. There have been over 2.6 million deaths in total. The US has nearly 30 million cases. Over 538,000 Americans have died. The US has gained over 44,000 new cases since yesterday—the 7-day moving average of new cases is on the decline. There have been nearly 800 deaths in the US since yesterday. The number of new deaths per day is also on the decline in the US. Brazil is still experiencing a raging COVID disease burden.

Massachusetts is using pooled COVID testing for students who opt in, and although the program is pricey for school districts, it’s a great way to keep people safe and schools open. Some schools have been able to use pooled testing to avert outbreaks. Testing seems like a necessary safety measure in the absence of vaccines for kids–but the programs must be funded.

The EU is falling way behind in the vaccine race. Export controls have been enacted following delays and shipment backups—meaning Italy withheld a large shipment of vaccines from leaving the EU and going to Australia. Production shortfalls within the EU are also playing a role. Interestingly, the UK was faster to approve the Pfizer vaccine and is not struggling to vaccinate the way the EU is.

The dangers of a variant explosion are there for all to see in Brazil. The specter of reinfection with a more dangerous variant is terrifying. Hospitals and hospital systems are collapsing in Brazil. Oxygen supply remains tenuous. Bolsonaro remains openly skeptical of the impact of the virus even though Brazil is currently suffering one of the worst rates of disease spread and death in the world.

The mayor of Detroit refused a shipment of J&J COVID vaccines, saying he felt they were worse than other options (they’re not). All of the vaccines available to Americans right now are excellent at preventing serious illness, hospitalizations, and death. My recommendation to anyone interested: get whatever vaccine you can get, as soon as you possibly can.

The Senate passed the 1.9 trillion dollar COVID relief bill:

Recombinant COVID viruses are the big nightmare, and we’ve already found a few. Oregon has a variant that shows mutations from both the UK variant and the South African variant. So far only one case has been identified.

Eastern Europe is going in the wrong direction:

The CDC says fully vaccinated people may gather indoors in small groups without masks (they don’t quantify what small means), and that fully vaccinated folks may similarly meet indoors with small groups of unvaccinated people from ONE household if those people are at low risk for having been infected:




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