The Daily Dose: Masks make the GOP lose their minds again; Oldest animal fossil discovered in Canada?

Even as the Olympic games appear to be going smoothly, COVID-19 cases outside the bubble continue their upward trajectory. According to the Assocaited Press, “Tokyo reported 3,177 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, setting an all-time high and exceeding 3,000 for the first time days after the start of the Olympics. The new cases exceeded the earlier record of 2,848 set the previous day and brought the total for the Japanese capital to 206,745 since the pandemic began early last year. Tokyo has been under a fourth state of emergency since July 12 ahead of the Olympics, which began last Friday despite widespread public opposition and concern that they could further worsen the outbreak.” The increasing case count does not seem to be driven by the athletes participating in the games.

Republicans are voicing their displeasure at having to wear masks again. Per Reuters,  “Republicans in the U.S. Congress lashed out at health officials’ recommendations that even fully vaccinated people resume wearing masks in many places, including the Capitol, as the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads through the nation. The attending physician for the Capitol followed a similar move by the White House after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new mask recommendations intended to stem the spread of the new variant. ‘Mask and vaccine mandates: Bullying, Controlling, Unconstitutional, Threats to Liberty!’ Republican Representative Jody Hice of Georgia tweeted on Wednesday morning.” Is anyone surprised by the sheer silliness of the GOP these days?

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An article in Nature takes deep dive into the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant.  “What has emerged from 19 months of work, backed by decades of coronavirus research, is a blow-by-blow account of how SARS-CoV-2 invades human cells (see ‘Life cycle of the pandemic coronavirus’). Scientists have discovered key adaptations that help the virus to grab on to human cells with surprising strength and then hide itself once inside. Later, as it leaves cells, SARS-CoV-2 executes a crucial processing step to prepare its particles for infecting even more human cells. These are some of the tools that have enabled the virus to spread so quickly and claim millions of lives. ‘That’s why it’s so difficult to control,’ says Wendy Barclay, a virologist at Imperial College London.” Definitely worth the read.

The oldest animal fossils ever discovered may have been found in Canada. But the announcement does not come without controversy. According to Science, “Tiny, wormlike structures embedded within a fossilized Canadian reef may have been formed by the skeletons of ancient sea sponges some 890 million years ago, a controversial study argues. If the claim bears out, the structures would represent the oldest animal fossils yet found. The results would also suggest animals thrived even before a massive surge in Earth’s oxygen levels that began about 800 million year ago—an event thought by many to have catalyzed the evolution of animal life. But other scientists say the paper doesn’t do enough to single out sponges as the source of the fossils.” Time will tell.


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