Bits ‘n’ Pieces: July 22, 2021

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

Massive flooding in Europe took more than 200 lives last week when, in some areas, two months worth of rainfall descended in 24 hours. There were landslides, collapsed bridges, washed-out roads, collapsed dikes and destroyed homes, The Washington Post reported. Politicians called for an escalation in efforts to address climate change, noting that such events were likely to increase in intensity and frequency, as climate scientists have stated for years.

How climate change causes flooding: Warmer air holds more moisture, making it more likely that a storm will drop more precipitation, according to The New York Times, which explained that every one degree Celsius of warming causes air to hold 7% more moisture. Some scientists think that may cause storms to linger longer. 

Another possible factor: impacts from rapid Arctic warming that influence the jet stream and weaken Earth’s river of winds, leading to stationary flooding. As well, developments near rivers displace natural absorption of run-off while run-off infrastructure can be inadequate. The Netherlands had less rainfall damage; in the 1990s that country began a Room for the Rivers program to reduce flooding. 

Europe was not alone. Flash flooding from monsoon rains fell in the Southwest U.S., leaving some city streets mired in muddy waters.

In southern Oregon, the Bootleg Fire is so large that it generates its own weather. The blaze, covering roughly the same land area as Los Angeles, has spawned lightning strikes, fire whirls and dangerous downdrafts, The Times reported.

From January to mid-July 2021 there were 33,935 wildfires in the U.S., as compared to 27,770 fires during the same time period in 2020, The Guardian reported.

Two new studies indicate that having had a case of COVID-19 can provide protection for about a year, according to a report in The WEEK. That protection may span a lifetime, if, like Donald Trump did before leaving office, one volunteers for a COVID-19 vaccination. 

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is less effective at preventing the Delta variant, but remains “highly effective” at preventing hospitalization, Politico reported, citing data from both the Israeli health ministry and the U.K.

After declining, COVID-19 cases in southwest Missouri began rising in late May. Springfield’s Mercy hospital in five weeks ended up with more COVID-19 patients than it had over five months of last year. Cox Medical Center now only has beds available when someone dies. The Atlantic reported that 95% of COVID-19 cases are due to the super-contagious Delta variant, lack of mask use, resisting vaccination (between 20% and 40% are vaccinated), traveling and engaging socially in crowded settings. 

ICUs are now seeing people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, many with no underlying health conditions and sicker than patients they saw last year. The majority are unvaccinated. The upside: health workers have protective gear. The downside is they are exhausted, with many feeling angry or resentful that they’re putting themselves in harm’s way by those choosing not to protect themselves. 

There is also resentment that deferred health care is further delayed, with elective patients becoming sicker. Another frustration: Most patients don’t realize that COVID-19 treatments cannot perform miracles, and anyone sick enough to go to the hospital may not come out. 

As much as 50% of the Missouri’s population remains unvaccinated, but the two-week process of developing full immunity is likely to be outpaced by the spread of the Delta variant. Now doctors fear a “twindemic” of flu and COVID-19 next season.

The National Nurses Union is urging the CDC to reinstate recommendations for using face masks in public or physical proximity to others, even if fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

President Joe Biden has proposed major investments in child-care funding and universal pre-kindergarten. Some say mothers should stay home with their kids. The WEEK pointed out that only 14% of American children have a stay-at-home mom. Most families would prefer more home time, but lack of a spouse or low spouse wages necessitate working. 

Some Republicans have proposed “generous cash donations” to help families, while Democrats are pushing for a higher minimum wage and improved medical safety net, allowing a family to survive on one parent’s income.

Blast from the past: Federal government-funded child care programs in the U.S. are not new. During WWII the Lanham Act provided child care for more than half a million children with working mothers. The centers were staffed by well-trained and well-paid educators. Class sizes were limited to 10. Health checkups were provided on site by doctors and nurses. Mothers were even sent home at the end of the day with prepared dinners.

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