The Daily Dose: Drug overdose deaths spiked during prolonged lockdowns; Racist urban planning kills the disenfranchised.

Chalk up more tragedy compliments of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Associated Press is reporting that drug fatalities spiked in the United States during prolonged lockdowns. “Overdose deaths soared to a record 93,000 last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government reported Wednesday. That estimate far eclipses the high of about 72,000 drug overdose deaths reached the previous year and amounts to a 29% increase. ‘This is a staggering loss of human life,’ said Brandon Marshall, a Brown University public health researcher who tracks overdose trends. The nation was already struggling with its worst overdose epidemic but clearly ‘COVID has greatly exacerbated the crisis,’ he added. Lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions isolated those with drug addictions and made treatment harder to get, experts said.”

The destructive wildfires raging along the Pacific coast states show no sign of abating. If anything, there’s more discouraging news. Per USA Today, “Thousands of firefighters battling scores of Western wildfires were finding little solace in the weather Wednesday, and afternoon wind gusts were forecast to fan blazes already fueled by near-record heat and drought conditions. More than 14,000 firefighters are combating at least 67 major fires in 12 states, the National Interagency Fire Center said. And AccuWeather’s long-range forecast calls for temperatures to increase over the weekend and into next week. ‘The atmosphere about the West generally, and the Northwest specifically, will remain tragically dry,’ AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Matt Rinde said. ‘There are no indicators for at least the next week that the moisture in the Southwest will move northward or that moisture will build in from the west.’” Massive wildfires are growing increasingly prevalent in the United States.

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Imagine powering small or wearable monitors that are powered not by batteries, but by the sweat on your fingertips. That’s just what an article in Science takes a closer look at. According to the article, “The small beads of sweat your fingertips produce while you sleep could power wearable sensors that measure glucose, vitamin C, or other health indicators. That’s the promise of a new advance—a thin, flexible device that wraps around fingertips like a Band-Aid—that its creators say is the most efficient sweat-powered energy harvester yet… Researchers around the world are currently developing wearable sensors to measure anything from a runner’s acceleration to a diabetic’s glucose levels.” That’s pretty cool, but you know what would be even better? Recharging your phone using your sweat.

Researchers are finding that racism continues to rear its head in the most unexpected ways. Undoing decades worth of racist urban planning (Looking at you, Robert Moses.) is proving difficult to assess, much less remedy, and is having tangible effects on low-income urban dwellers. Researchers are doing their best to remedy the injustice..According to an article in Nature, “To help reduce the risk of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses, urban planners, meteorologists, climate experts and other scientists are working to identify the most vulnerable neighbourhoods. Underlying such efforts is a growing awareness of how extreme heat takes a disproportionate toll on people of colour and those in lower-income communities. Racist urban policies, particularly in the United States, have left communities of colour at higher risk of heat-related illness or death than their white neighbours.”

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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