In a sign about how scarred governments around the world are by Covid-19, the response to the newest variant of concern has been all over the place. Some governments are shutting down borders to travelers from southern Africa, others are shutting down to all travelers regardless of their origin, and still others have yet to react. So far, the best way to describe what is known about Omicron and what measures need to be taken is that things are in a holding pattern. Per Reuters, “The Omicron variant of coronavirus carries a ‘very high’ global risk of surges, the WHO warned on Monday, as more countries reported cases, prompting border closures and reviving worries about the economic recovery from a two-year pandemic. Scientists have said it could take weeks to understand the severity of Omicron, which was first identified in southern Africa. Its emergence has caused a strong global reaction, with countries imposing travel curbs and other restrictions, worried that it could spread fast even in vaccinated populations.” Hopefully, each drop of the trickle doesn’t cause knee-jerk reactions. https://reut.rs/319TtMQ
REWARDING BAD BEHAVIOR.
Here’s another sign that some public officials in the United States just don’t get it (and probably never will). Some GOP members led by Sen. Mike Braun (R-IL), are seeking to actively reward people for refusing vaccinations. Per Axios, “Republican officials around the country are testing a creative mechanism to build loyalty with unvaccinated Americans while undermining Biden administration mandates: unemployment benefits… Florida, Iowa, Kansas and Tennessee have changed their unemployment insurance rules to allow workers who are fired or quit over vaccine mandates to receive benefits… Extending unemployment benefits to the unvaccinated is just the latest in a series of proposals aligning the GOP with people who won’t get a COVID shot.” If you had any doubts that the anti-vaxx hill is the one the Republican Party wants to die on, look no further. So it goes… https://bit.ly/3CY2JRb
REMEMBERING THE TRAUMA OF HIV/AIDS.
With one eye on World AIDS Day on December 1, Nature is featuring a commentary by Anthony Fauci looking back on his long history at the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS. According to Fauci, “Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a milestone of another global scourge has largely escaped the spotlight. It has been 40 years since the earliest reports of what ultimately became known as AIDS, in 1981. I initially dismissed the first report as a curiosity and probably a fluke, but another a month later, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, changed my mind and the direction of my career. Against the advice of my mentors, I shifted my research focus to understanding why young, healthy men were being beset by unusual conditions. I remember anxiously awaiting results essential in the fight against a disease that brought on so many seemingly unrelated symptoms: pneumonia, blindness, skin lesions, dementia.” Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become easy to forget just how devastating and terrifying the first two decades of the HIV/AIDS epidemic was. Well into the 1990s, a positive infection amounted to a death sentence. https://go.nature.com/2ZEAZDy
GENDER PROBLEMS IN STEM CONTINUES.
A recent study has indicated (again) that young girls are pretty much discouraged from participating in the computer science and engineering industries somewhere between pre-school and middle school. Per Futurity, “Children as young as age 6 develop ideas that girls are less interested than boys in computer science and engineering. ‘Gender-interest stereotypes that STEM is for boys begins in grade school, and by the time they reach high school, many girls have made their decision not to pursue degrees in computer science and engineering because they feel they don’t belong,’ says Allison Master, an assistant professor of psychological, health, and learning sciences at the University of Houston and lead author of the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” This has been known for a long time and so far efforts at rectifying it have fallen short. https://bit.ly/3rhtptI
THE WORD OF THE YEAR IS…
Who says lexicographers are dinosaurs that exist outside of current events driven language? The pandemic has wiggled its way into yet another field you wouldn’t have linked with Covid-19. Per the Associated Press, “With an expanded definition to reflect the times, Merriam-Webster has declared an omnipresent truth as its 2021 word of the year: vaccine. ‘This was a word that was extremely high in our data every single day in 2021,’ Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor-at-large, told The Associated Press ahead of Monday’s announcement. ‘It really represents two different stories. One is the science story, which is this remarkable speed with which the vaccines were developed. But there’s also the debates regarding policy, politics and political affiliation. It’s one word that carries these two huge stories,’ he said.” https://bit.ly/3I32HuX
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
IMAGE CREDIT: United States Senate Photographic Studio.