crop man putting medical mask on face of ethnic child

The Daily Dose: Journal retracts study about CO2 levels and face masks; Pandemic enters a new phase.

JAMA has retracted a recent paper that claimed that children’s masks trap high concentrations of carbon dioxide. Per Retraction Watch, “The paper, by Harald Walach and colleagues, came under fire immediately after it was published on June 30, and quickly earned an editor’s note. Walach had another paper — which claimed that COVID-19 vaccines caused two deaths for every three deaths they prevented — retracted just a few days later. He also lost an affiliation with a university in Poland.” Question for JAMA is why didn’t they catch this sooner, rather than giving anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers more ammunition?

The Delta of the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 is running rampant across the world, particularly among the unvaccinated though by now means exclusively to them. It represents a new phase for the pandemic. The dynamic differs from the first few phases in which the entire world was susceptible. Now, the combination of vaccinated/unvaccinated requires a different approach. STAT took a closer look at the new reality: “How well is the country preventing hospitalizations and deaths right now? The answer is nuanced. Vaccines are absolutely helping blunt the impact of these outbreaks — both the size and the toll in sickness and death. But vaccine uptake isn’t to the point yet where it can preclude increases in hospitalizations and deaths. Put another way, without vaccines, the outbreaks in Nevada, Missouri, Arkansas, and elsewhere with low immunization rates would be worse, and other states would be more vulnerable to similar spikes.”

The aftermath of the severe floods that tore through parts of Germany is still playing out. That doesn’t mean that politicians are still refraining from acting like politicians and using the tragedy to score political points. Per the Associated Press, “German officials defended their actions ahead of last week’s severe floods that caught many towns by surprise and killed 196 people in Western Europe, but they conceded that more lessons can be learned from the disaster. As floodwaters receded Monday, authorities continued searching for more victims and intensified their efforts to clean up a sodden swath of western Germany, eastern Belgium and the Netherlands.“ It’s really disturbing how common this is among the political class aroud the world.

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Rare earth metals are the new frontier in the global trade competition between the United States and China. It has everything to do with sustainability technologies such as electric vehicles. Per Reuters, “As tensions mount between China and the United States, automakers in the West are trying to reduce their reliance on a key driver of the electric vehicle revolution – permanent magnets, sometimes smaller than a pack of cards, that power electric engines. Most are made of rare earth metals from China. The metals in the magnets are actually abundant, but can be dirty and difficult to produce. China has grown to dominate production, and with demand for the magnets on the rise for all forms of renewable energy, analysts say a genuine shortage may lie ahead.” It’s worth notiong that China has control of a lot of crucial global supply lines. Wonder what’s next…

Last week, the chief of the World Health Organization publicly chided China for not being more trasparent and cooperative about supplying the raw data regarding the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan. This article in Science goes a bit deeper with reactions from pro- and con-scientists. It’s hard to understand why detractors of the lab leak theory continue to discount it out of hand. (For the record, we are with the natural origin camp, mostly because that’s where the consensus is and we aren’t expert virologists here.)

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

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