Connect with us


New COVID subvariants blamed for New York surge already seen in Utah

Brittaney Bailey tests a person for COVID-19 in West Valley City on Friday, April 8, 2022. The two new versions of so-called “stealth omicron” sweeping through New York right now first showed up in Utah last month but appear to account for only a small percentage of COVID-19 cases here, the Utah Department of Health’s chief scientist said Thursday.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The two new versions of so-called “stealth omicron” sweeping through New York right now first showed up in Utah last month but appear to account for only a small percentage of COVID-19 cases here, the Utah Department of Health’s chief scientist said Thursday.
“For us, we’re not seeing an explosion of one of these taking off,” Kelly Oakeson, the state health department’s chief scientist for next generation sequencing and bioinformatics, said of the new subvariants known as BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1, that are believed to be boosting case counts in New York, a hot spot for COVID-19.

So far, Oakeson said, genome sequencing at the Utah Public Health Laboratory has identified just two cases of BA.2.12 from COVID-19 testing samples collected on March 4, and five cases of BA.2.12.1 from testing samples collected on March 14.

That’s out of a total of 367 cases of all omicron subvariants detected, including 178 cases of the first subvariant, BA.2 or “stealth omicron.” The subvariants are considered even more transmissible than the original omicron, which sent case counts in Utah and other parts of the country soaring to record levels earlier this year.

Sorting through what amounts to subvariants of a subvariant isn’t easy, Oakeson suggested.
“You’re subdividing a subdivision. You’re really kind of going from BA.2 down into the weeds,” he said, comparing the new subvariants “to a family tree spreading” as the virus evolves. “It’s really complex, too, right? Are we seeing the virus itself becoming better at infecting us or are we seeing other factors play into this?”

What may be happening in places like New York that only recently ended COVID-19 restrictions like mask mandates is that people who don’t have immunity from getting booster shots against the virus or being infected with omicron may be more susceptible to the subvariants, Oakeson said.

Those people are “now all of a sudden saying, ‘Hey, look, I can go out and do things,’ and being exposed,” he said

The New York State Department of Health is urging “continued vigilance against COVID-19” as cases increase. In the central part of New York state, the new subvariants are dominant, thanks to a growth advantage of about 25% over BA.2.

BA.2 now accounts for nearly 86% of all COVID-19 cases nationwide, and more than 76% of cases in the region that includes Utah, according to the latest estimates by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which does not not post data on the new subvariants.

Utah’s latest COVID-19 numbers, now released every Thursday, show there have been 740 new cases over the past week, 20 hospitalizations and six new deaths from the virus. The seven-day average case count is up 9%, and the percent positivity for tests when multiple results for an individual are excluded is up more than 16%.

While Utah isn’t seeing the same increases in COVID-19 as New York and other parts of the East Coast, there’s still concern that Easter gatherings this weekend could result in more cases of the virus in the Beehive State as the subvariants continue to spread across the country after spiking overseas.

Dr. Brandon Webb, an Intermountain Healthcare infectious diseases physician, predicted earlier this week that Utah can expect to start seeing 400 to 500 new cases diagnosed daily. Webb said what he termed a “swell” rather than a surge, should start next week.

Oakeson agreed that Utah’s numbers are likely to rise because of the holiday.

“I think we’re going to see, just like he said, swells,” the state’s chief scientist said, “This kind of up-and-down, roller-coaster ride I think is going to — I hate to say it — be the new normal, where we have these lulls. People get really comfortable, thinking it’s over. Then we’re going to get a wave again.”

Hopefully, Oakeson said, cases will never reach the same levels they did during the omicron surge that saw case counts of more than 13,000 in a single day. He said Utahns may want to take an at-home COVID-19 test before gathering with others this weekend and make sure they’re up to date on booster shots.

“If you’re really nervous, immunocompromised or have people at high risk for complications from COVID, wear a mask. Gather outside,” Oakeson advised. “All those kinds of things we’ve been saying since 2020 still work. The variants haven’t all of a sudden evolved to get through that mask, or spread better outdoors.”

By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice and European users agree to the data transfer policy.

Continue Reading


Your pollen allergies are overwhelming? This might be why

Pollen has exploded to eye-watering levels this spring in some parts of the country after warm weather pushed plants out of their winter slumber much earlier than normal.

In Atlanta, the pollen count sky rocketed to “extremely high” in early March and stayed high through much of April, according to the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma physicians practice. Farther north in Washington, DC, allergy sufferers have been dreading the lime-green film of pollen covering that covers windshields and porches and piles up on streets and sidewalks.

But these aren’t isolated trends. As the planet warms, researchers say allergy season is starting earlier and lasting longer. And a study from the journal Nature published last year found that pollen count is projected to increase by 200% by the end of the century if planet-warming pollution continues to rise.

Climate Central, a nonprofit focused on climate news and research, recently analyzed how warmer temperatures have affected allergy season in 203 US cities since 1970.

It found that on average, the growing season – the period between the last freeze in spring to the first freeze of fall – is lasting 16 days longer in the Southeast, 15 days longer in the Northeast and 14 days longer in the South.

In the West, growing season is 27 days longer on average, Climate Central reported. Reno, Nevada, for example, has seen a shocking increase of 99 days.

And a longer growing season means a longer allergy season.

Because of climate change, we’re now seeing an earlier and longer growing season for plants, which of course make pollen, which is the enemy of many Americans that suffer from pollen allergies – and mold allergies as well,” Lauren Casey, a meteorologist with Climate Central, told CNN. “Pollen can also trigger an asthma attack, which of course is much more serious for people that suffer from asthma.”

When plants reproduce, typically during the spring, many release tiny pollen grains that are carried by wind. The pollen grains are small enough to be inhaled, and some people’s immune systems react very poorly to the miniscule particles.

More than 24 million people in the US have pollen-induced respiratory allergies like hay fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The center’s data shows that more than one in four adults suffered from seasonal allergies in 2021.

A longer and earlier start to pollen season could trigger a public health emergency, researchers say. As temperatures get warmer in the South and drought plagues the Southwest, pollen from plants like ragweed or poaceae – a plant that typically grows in grasslands or salt-marshes – is projected to be higher across those regions than in the North.

Wind-driven pollen, which plays an important role in plant fertilization, is closely tied to temperature and precipitation changes. So, as spring seasons get warmer earlier due to climate change, plants could pollinate much earlier and for a longer period of time than they currently do.

Mold allergens on the rise
Plant pollen isn’t the only trigger of seasonal allergies. Mold, a type of fungi that reproduces with tiny airborne spores, can also be allergenic for some people and can exacerbate seasonal allergies, according to the report.

While outdoor mold is not as well-studied as pollen, according to the report, one thing is clear: Warmer and wetter weather – conditions that many locations are seeing more of amid the climate crisis – is favorable for mold development.


Continue Reading


The Facebook Papers may be the biggest crisis in the company’s history

Facebook has confronted whistleblowers, PR firestorms and Congressional inquiries in recent years. But now it faces a combination of all three at once in what could be the most intense and wide-ranging crisis in the company’s 17-year history.

On Friday, a consortium of 17 US news organizations began publishing a series of stories — collectively called “The Facebook Papers” — based on a trove of hundreds of internal company documents which were included in disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s legal counsel. The consortium, which includes CNN, reviewed the redacted versions received by Congress.

CNN’s coverage includes stories about how coordinated groups on Facebook (FB) sow discord and violence, including on January 6, as well as Facebook (FB)’s challenges moderating content in some non-English-speaking countries, and how human traffickers have used its platforms to exploit people.

The reports from CNN, and the other outlets that are part of the consortium, follow a month of intense scrutiny for the company. The Wall Street Journal previously published a series of stories based on tens of thousands of pages of internal Facebook documents leaked by Haugen. (The consortium’s work is based on many of the same documents.)

The publication of the Journal’s “Facebook Files,” which raised concerns about the impact of Instagram on teen girls, among other issues, prompted a Senate subcomittee hearing with Facebook head of global safety Antigone Davis. Haugen herself then testified before the Senate subcommittee, during which she said she believes that “Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy.”

There’s currently no end in sight for Facebook’s troubles. Members of the subcommittee have called for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify. And on Friday, another former Facebook employee anonymously filed a complaint against the company to the SEC, with allegations similar to Haugen’s.

Facebook has dealt with scandals over its approach to data privacy, content moderation and competitors before. But the vast trove of documents, and the many stories surely still to come from it, touch on concerns and problems across seemingly every part of its business: its approach to combatting hate speech and misinformation, managing international growth, protecting younger users on its platform and even its ability to accurately measure the size of its massive audience.

All of this raises an uncomfortable question for the company: Is Facebook actually capable of managing the potential for real-world harms from its staggeringly large platforms, or has the social media giant become too big not to fail?

Facebook tries to turn the page
Facebook, for its part, has repeatedly tried to discredit Haugen, and said her testimony and reports on the documents mischaracterize its actions and efforts.

“At the heart of these stories is a premise which is false,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to CNN. “Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or wellbeing misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie.”

In a tweet thread last week, the company’s Vice President of Communications, John Pinette, called the Facebook Papers a “curated selection out of millions of documents at Facebook” which “can in no way be used to draw fair conclusions about us.” But even that response is telling –— if Facebook has more documents that would tell a fuller story, why not release them? (During her Senate testimony Facebook’s Davis said Facebook is “looking for ways to release more research.”)

Instead, Facebook is now reportedly planning to rebrand itself under a new name as early as this week, as the wave of critical coverage continues. (Facebook previously declined to comment on this report.) The move appears to be a clear attempt to turn the page, but a fresh coat of paint won’t fix the underlying issues outlined in the documents — only Facebook, or whatever it may soon be called, can do that.

Take the example of a report published by the Journal on September 16 that highlighted internal Facebook research about a violent Mexican drug cartel, known as Cartél Jalisco Nueva Generación. The cartel was said to be using the platform to post violent content and recruit new members using the acronym “CJNG,” even though it had been designated internally as one of the “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations” whose content should be removed. Facebook told the Journal at the time that it was investing in artificial intelligence to bolster its enforcement against such groups.

Despite the Journal’s report last month,  last week identified disturbing content linked to the group on Instagram, including photos of guns, and photo and video posts in which people appear to have been shot or beheaded. After  asked Facebook about the posts, a spokesperson confirmed that multiple videos  flagged were removed for violating the company’s policies, and at least one post had a warning added.

Continue Reading


setting Boston Bruins blow 3-1 series lead, eliminated by Florida Panthers from NHL playoffs

The President’s Trophy curse will continue for at least another year as the Boston Bruins fell to the Florida Panthers 4-3 Sunday in an electric Game 7 of the first round of the NHL playoffs.

The Panthers got out to a quick start, going up 2-0. The high-powered Bruins came storming back, scoring three unanswered goals to take the lead.

With a minute left in the third period and the fans at TD Garden in Boston going wild, the Panthers’ Brandon Montour scored to tie the game and send it to overtime, silencing the home crowd.

fter a couple of scoring chances in the overtime period for both teams, Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe scored to eliminate the Bruins from the playoffs.

Florida completed an improbable comeback, from being down 3-1 in the series to winning three straight games to advance to the next round.

The Bruins, who broke the NHL record for most wins (65) and most points (135) in a single season, join a list of teams who took home the President’s Trophy and did not win the Stanley Cup. The President’s Trophy is awarded to the team that finishes the regular season with the most points.

The last team to win the award and the Cup in the same year was the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2012-2013 season. The Bruins, who have won the Trophy two other times in the last 10 years, were eliminated both times in the second round of the playoffs (2013-2014, 2019-2020).

The Panthers will face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round.


Continue Reading


Copyright © 2017 Zox News Theme. Theme by MVP Themes, powered by WordPress.