ISS Astronauts communicate with school kids via ham radio

The conversations are a treat for the astronauts as well.

“You’re talking to someone and looking right down at where they are,” NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold II said.

Over the last 10 years, ham radio has become more popular, experts say, with about 750,000 licensed amateur operators across the U.S. (not all of whom are active on the air). Helping to drive that interest: emergency communications.

“Ham radio is when all else fails,” said Diana Feinberg, Los Angeles section manager for the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio. “Unlike other forms of communication, it does not require any kind of a switched network.”

Source: Earthlings and astronauts chat away, via ham radio | The Seattle Times

Predictable: 33 year old cuts in vaccine line and brags about it on FB

The woman told a Facebook friend that she skipped the waiting period because her husband’s aunt is a “big deal” at Redlands Community Hospital, where they had begun vaccinating employees.

Hospital officials told the Register that they had allotted their vaccines to “frontline physicians, health care workers and support staff per California Department of Public Health guidelines.”

And the explanation for how this happened:

“After physicians and staff who expressed interest in the vaccine were administered, there were several doses left. Because the reconstituted Pfizer vaccine must be used within hours or be disposed of, several doses were administered,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Source: California Disney employee brags about getting COVID-19 vaccine early, hospital says leftover doses were given to non-frontline health care workers

Watch for “new positive test” counts to explode on Monday or Tuesday

Many public health offices shut down or reduced staffing over the Christmas break and test counts and deaths where not collated. Expect spikes in the numbers released up through Tuesday of this coming week as they get caught up.

Only 16 of my state’s 39 counties reported any data on December 25th. On December 26th, this rose to 29 of 39 counties. Similarly, the state’s daily reported deaths was running about 20/day but went to zero on Christmas Day. Hmmmm….. (Daily death reports reflect when the state received the report, not the actual day of death, which may have been days, weeks, even months earlier.)

Consequently, public health daily reports will be volatile until early January, once past the New Year’s holiday as well.

Can you spot the Christmas surge? This chart shows airline passenger counts by week through Dec 26. The overall growth in air traffic has been on a consistent trajectory since mid June with minor fluctuations around Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

California now has the worst COVID-19 spread in US

For months, California was the state that did everything right – until it became the worst:

The Golden State is in the midst of its worst surge ever, and last week the test positivity rate — another key data point for measuring the pandemic — hit 12%. That’s more than double what it was a month ago. In California’s summer surge, the positivity rate peaked at 7.6%.

The state is posting the country’s worst COVID-19 numbers despite a new stay-at-home order that took effect in most of the state in early December. Cellphone data suggests compliance is low, and some have speculated the state’s strict restrictions contributed to the winter explosion.

Source: California now has the worst COVID-19 spread in US

Once again, given the element of time, nearly everywhere eventually ends up with the same outcomes as everywhere else. Public health mitigations, if they work, are not sustainable. And many of them have no real world evidence showing they work.

California has had among the strictest and longest running restrictions in the nation. The populated areas have had face mask mandates (some areas even outdoors) since mid-April to May 1, and state wide since June 10th.

Pressure builds for early adoption of immunity passports – as soon as the spring of 2021


And right on queue again:

“At this time there is no timeline on when this documentation will come into place or if certain industries will require it. Health professionals say if it were to happen, it could be as soon as spring or summer 2021.”

Because the elite and privileged will already be vaccinated by then and want to get on with their lives.

It is one thing to require passports when everyone has had an opportunity for vaccination – which including the wait in line may be the Fall of 2021. It is another to begin requiring them when half the population – those of us who are non-essential, basically worthless people – won’t have access until summer or later in 2021.

That’s the message businesses are sending – and the pressure for them to discriminate based on attributes you cannot control will be immense.

And then, how do you accommodate those that had a severe reaction to dose 1 of the vaccine and are advised not to get vaccinated?

Update: Spain building national database of persons who do not get vaccinated. The database will be shared with EU countries, presumably to ban travel across borders.

Uh, no: “The false promise of herd immunity for COVID-19”

When a vaccine is available, that is the preferable – and safer – method to achieve herd immunity. Definitely.

But this statement, from an immunologist, does not agree with history:

“There’s no magic wand we can use here,” Andersen says. “We have to face reality — never before have we reached herd immunity via natural infection with a novel virus, and SARS-CoV-2 is unfortunately no different.” Vaccination is the only ethical path to herd immunity, he says. How many people will need to be vaccinated — and how often — will depend on many factors, including how effective the vaccine is and how long its protection lasts.

Source: The false promise of herd immunity for COVID-19

There is a long list of prior pandemics in world history that ended, on their own, without vaccines being available so that statement is confusing. Today, it is preferable to end a pandemic through vaccination programs rather than natural herd immunity.

Continue reading Uh, no: “The false promise of herd immunity for COVID-19”

Excess deaths are real

I’ve seen some social media posts claiming there are no excess deaths in the U.S. in 2020.

Here’s today’s chart from the CDC

There is great variation by state.

My state, for example, is mostly below the yellow line. Others have had one or more large peaks as we’ve gone through 3 waves.

If you squint, there is also perhaps an earlier small wave in December. This is when it was believed that I+P deaths were peaking – but now we know from a large study that blood samples drawn in mid-December showed the presence of Covid-19 anti-bodies (about 2% of the samples in my state). We have much to learn.

Oops – Not the Onion: “Locked-down California runs out of reasons for surprising surge”

When I saw this on Twitter I thought it was an Onion or Babylon Bee headline:

OAKLAND, Calif. — California has had some of the toughest restrictions in the country to combat the coronavirus, from a complete ban on restaurant dining to travel quarantines and indoor gym closures.

It hasn’t been enough.

The turnabout has confounded leaders and health experts. They can point to any number of reasons that contributed to California’s surge over the past several weeks. But it is hard to pinpoint one single factor — and equally hard to find a silver bullet.

Source: Locked-down California runs out of reasons for surprising surge – POLITICO

As noted many times here, public health knows that strict measures can only be done for a limited period of time. And that many measures they pursue have limited effectiveness.

Continue reading Oops – Not the Onion: “Locked-down California runs out of reasons for surprising surge”

lock downs cannot work for more than a few weeks

In a highly interconnected society, nearly all workers have been designated as “essential” by the U.S. government:

According to the federal standard, more than 104 million U.S. workers, or 71 percent of the total U.S. workforce, are employed in the “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” battling COVID-19. Critical worker numbers vary by state, with around 75 percent employed in these essential occupations in Mississippi, Indiana, and Kentucky, to a low of 48 percent in the District of Columbia.

Source: Many U.S. Workers in Critical Occupations in the Fight Against COVID-19 (Revised) – LMI Institute

Of course not everyone works, some are children, and about 28% of the population is mostly home-bound already. But within the workforce, 70% still need to work. You do not really have a lock down – you merely have fewer potential contacts for a limited period of time.

Continue reading lock downs cannot work for more than a few weeks