Thursday, May 23, 2024

Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

| July 23, 2021 7:00 AM

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 warned for years.

How climate change causes flooding: Warmer air holds more moisture, making it more likely a storm will drop more precipitation, The New York Times reported, explaining that every one degree Celsius of warming causes air to hold 7 percent 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 the river of winds, leading to stationary flooding. Developments near rivers displace natural absorption run-off, and run-off infrastructure can prove inadequate. The Netherlands saw less rainfall damage. In the 1990s, the European nation launched 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 — size of L.A. — it generates its own weather. It has spawned lightening strikes, fire whirls and dangerous downdrafts, The New York Times reported.

In 2021, there were 33,935 wildfires from January to mid-July 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.

The Pfizer vaccine is less effective at preventing the delta variant, but remains “highly effective” at preventing hospitalization among patients ill with it, Politico reported. Data from both the Israeli health ministry and the U.K. show the Pfizer vaccine prevents severe cases of the delta variant.

Pandemic update from southwest Missouri: After declining, cases of COVID-19 began increasing in late May. Springfield’s Mercy hospital in five weeks ended up with more COVID-19 patients than they had over five months of last year. Cox Medical Center now only has beds available when someone dies, which occurs several times a day. The Atlantic reported that 95 percent of COVID-19 cases are due to the extremely contagious delta variant, lack of mask use, resisting vaccination (between 20 and 40 percent 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 those they saw last year. The majority is unvaccinated. The upside: Health workers have protective gear. The downside: 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. They don’t like seeing families navigating end-of-life decisions for young victims. Another frustration: Most patients don’t realize that COVID treatments cannot perform miracles and that anyone sick enough to require hospitalization may not come out. Fifty percent of the state remains unvaccinated. Now doctors fear a “twindemic” of flu and COVID-19 during the upcoming winter season.

Double infection: A 90-year-old Belgian woman died after five days in the hospital when her respiratory system collapsed. She was sick with two strains of the COVID-19 virus, NPR reported.

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

President Joe Biden has proposed major investments in childcare funding and universal pre-kindergarten. Some say mothers should stay home with their kids. The Week pointed out that only 14 percet 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 a better medical safety net, allowing a family to survive on one parent’s income.

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