Planning to fly for Thanksgiving or Christmas? You might wanna get your vaccine now – National & International News – TUE 14Sept2021

Democratic lawmakers call on Biden to ban unvaccinated travelers from domestic flights ahead of holidays.
September 14th, 2021     National & International News

 

Vaccine requirements for domestic air travel may soon be a reality. Biden takes on Big Meat’s price-gouging. Researchers race to prevent a scarier pandemic than COVID.

 

 

NATIONAL NEWS

Vaccine requirements for domestic air travel may soon be a reality

Last month, Canada announced a vaccine requirement for all passengers traveling on domestic flights, rail or large ships. At that time, there were no signs the U.S. was planning to follow suit. But that picture has now changed considerably. A recent Gallup poll shows that 61% of Americans (up from 57% in April) support requiring proof of full vaccination for air travel. And since Biden’s Thursday announcement of new vaccine requirements, there are have been hints that a vaccine requirement for domestic air travel could be on the horizon.

On Friday, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters that the administration was planning “further action” on COVID in the near future. When asked whether this might include vaccine or testing requirements for domestic air travel, Zients coyly answered, “We’re not taking any measures off the table”. Yesterday, we also heard Dr. Fauci come out in favor of such a requirement.

The US Travel Association, a lobbying group for the travel industry, immediately pushed back on this, contending that airlines’ mask requirements are sufficient. But requiring masks on planes only inhibits the spread of COVID from one passenger to another while onboard. It does nothing to prevent a person from spreading COVID once they arrive at their destination. And some airlines are already calling for the onboard mask requirements to end despite the rampant spread of the delta variant. 

Thanksgiving will be here before you know it

The popular and political tides on vaccine requirements for flights have officially turned. The Thanksgiving and Christmas travel seasons are coming up fast. If there’s no vaccine requirement for flights by then, a single weekend of holiday travel could spur COVID spikes and overwhelm hospitals nationwide. Health experts with ties to the White House are already warning about this potential nightmare scenario.

Even if there’s no such requirement by Thanksgiving or Christmas (though the signs are pointing that way), it seems inevitable it will happen sometime soon. So if you’re planning on flying anywhere in the near future and have been putting off getting your vaccine, now’s the time. It takes 5-6 weeks to be considered fully immunized (3-4 weeks between shots + 2 weeks to take full effect after your second dose). Don’t be caught short; don’t lose out. Bite the bullet now and get your vaccine!

 

Biden takes on Big Meat’s price-gouging

With the economy sputtering back to life in fits and starts, consumers are experiencing inflation in the form of higher prices on everyday goods. Earlier this year, sky high lumber prices were making headlines before finally coming back to earth. But anyone who’s been to a grocery store recently knows that beef, pork and poultry are only getting more expensive.

At the same time, cattle ranchers and pig and poultry farmers are actually losing money. So what gives?

Big Meat

Just four companies control 80% of the beef packing industry. The situation is similar for pork and poultry. In fact, companies like JBS, Tyson, Cargill and Smithfield have merged and conglomerated their way to obtaining a stranglehold on U.S. meat supplies. That means ranchers and farmers have fewer places to sell their animals to, and supermarkets have fewer places to buy their wholesale meat from. That means lower compensation for farmers, sky-high prices for you, and record profits for Big Meat.

Big Meat executives will tell you it’s not their fault. They say that since the COVID pandemic forced them to slowdown (and sometimes shut down) their plants and processing, this has led to a livestock glut. And now that demand for meat is rising, they have to charge higher prices.

“Anti-competitive” behavior

The Biden administration is not buying it. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said last week, “Farmers are losing money on cattle, hogs and poultry that they’re selling at a time when consumers are seeing higher prices at the grocery store. And there are now record profits or near-record profits for those in the middle”.

The DOJ is also looking into possible price fixing. This year, Pilgrim’s Pride, the nation’s second largest poultry processor, pleaded guilty to conspiring to limit production to artificially inflate chicken prices.

To open up the meatpacking field, the White House is setting aside a $500 million cash injection to help small and new meat processors compete.

The administration also plans to use the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act to crack down on “anti-competitive” behavior by the big meat processing companies.

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INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Nipah virus: researchers eye seriously scary candidate for next pandemic

In 2018, the Indian state of Kerala suppressed an outbreak of the Nipah virus. Since then, the state has seen three more emergences of the disease. Most recently, Nipah claimed the life of a 12-year-old boy on Sept. 5.

Despite being one of India’s poorest states, Kerala has been credited for its proactive approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their success in stamping out the Nipah outbreak surely prepared them to take on COVID. But both Indian and foreign researchers say that despite past successes, Nipah has the potential to pose a serious global threat.

Scientists believe humans become infected with Nipah through contact with intermediary animal hosts, such as pigs and certain fruit bats. And once the virus enters a human host, the host can then spread the virus to other humans through contact with bodily fluids. 

Symptoms, spread and mortality

Symptoms can appear with 4-14 days after infection. The initial symptoms are flu-like and include fever, headaches, nausea and breathing difficulties. Left untreated, this can progress to encephalitis symptoms such as disorientation and dizziness, after which patients may become comatose after 1-2 days. 

Unlike aggressive strains of COVID, Nipah hasn’t yet proven to be easily transmissible. On average, a host may infect one other person. Currently, it appears humans can only spread the virus to others once their symptoms kick in, which cuts down on the spread. But as we’ve seen with COVID, viruses can evolve.

Also unlike COVID, the survival rate of Nipah is very low. In fact, current data indicates that about 70% of people infected with Nipah die.

Prevention, containment and treatment

The first and best line of defense against a potential Nipah outbreak is prevention. Nipah is a difficult disease to prevent since scientists still aren’t sure of all the ways it can jump to humans from animals. The leading theory is that humans come into contact with the saliva or feces of certain fruit bats or livestock. 

Dr. Stephen Luby, professor of infectious disease at Stanford University says that in previous outbreaks in Malaysia and Bangladesh, the likely culprit was consumption of raw fruit products (like raw date palm sap) that have been contaminated with fruit bat saliva or feces. But no one’s sure how the 12-year-old in Kerala contracted the disease.

Since prevention is difficult, the next line of defense is containment. Authorities in Kerala have been extremely vigilant. Following the boy’s diagnosis and death, authorities contact-traced and isolated 251 people, including the boy’s family members. The worry is that Nipah could potentially spread unchecked in areas where authorities aren’t as on top of things.

The last lines of defense are vaccination and treatment. There’s no definitive vaccine for Nipah yet, but researchers have developed some promising candidates. Treatments using monoclonal antibodies may also be effective, but only in the early stages of infection before symptoms appear. 

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