San Quentin Officials Ignored Coronavirus Guidance ; How the Pandemic Might Play Out in 2021 and Beyond ; and More Picks 8/13

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San Quentin Officials Ignored Coronavirus Guidance ; How the Pandemic Might Play Out in 2021 and Beyond ; and More Picks

San Quentin Officials Ignored Coronavirus Guidance ; How the Pandemic Might Play Out in 2021 and Beyond ; and More Picks 8/13

San Quentin Officials Ignored Coronavirus Guidance (Reader Steve)

From the San Francisco Chronicle: “Two days after California prison officials in late May shipped busloads of prisoners from a coronavirus hot spot in Chino to San Quentin State Prison, Marin County’s top public health officer issued urgent guidance to the prison’s leadership. Dr. Matthew Willis had learned that the 122 prisoners weren’t tested for weeks before they were transferred on May 30. Unless they were ‘radically sequestered’ from the native population, Willis warned, the prison was setting the stage for a major outbreak. This advice … was the first in a series of public health recommendations to be issued and ultimately dismissed by prison officials, Willis said … In the weeks that followed, California’s oldest prison would emerge as an epicenter for one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the U.S., as the virus would go on to infect more than 2,400 prisoners and staff. Twenty-six men have died as a result.”

The Scramble to Pluck 24 Billion Cherries in Eight Weeks (Bethany)

The author writes, “For years, the tree-fruit industry in Washington … has been struggling to find the workers it needs to keep producing food. Across the country, the number of farmworkers is dwindling. Current workers, who are often immigrants without legal permission to work in the industries that are reliant on them, are getting older; those who are able to are leaving an industry that’s poorly paid and physically damaging and often exploitative; and crackdowns at the border mean that there are fewer new arrivals to take their place. To cope, some growers have turned to a ballooning visa-based ‘guest worker’ program, which comes with its own significant problems, while many others have simply buckled under debt and rising costs, going under or selling their orchards to ever-bigger companies. … Such was the state of things before the coronavirus pandemic arrived, bringing with it a host of new troubles.” 

How the Pandemic Might Play Out in 2021 and Beyond (Dana)

From Nature: “Around the world, epidemiologists are constructing short- and long-term projections as a way to prepare for, and potentially mitigate, the spread and impact of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Although their forecasts and timelines vary, modellers agree on two things: COVID-19 is here to stay, and the future depends on a lot of unknowns, including whether people develop lasting immunity to the virus, whether seasonality affects its spread, and — perhaps most importantly — the choices made by governments and individuals.”

World Methane Emissions Hit New High (Mili)

The author writes, “Annual emissions of methane have gone up by nine percent since the early 2000s — that amounts 50 million more tons every year — and the methane that has been pumped into the atmosphere since 2000 is equivalent to adding 350 million cars to the world’s roads, says [ environmental scientist Rob] Jackson in a statement. If left unchecked, the emissions scenario the world is currently tracking is predicted to warm the planet by three to four degrees Celsius by 2100, according to the statement. This increase would blow past the goals of limiting global warming to 2 degrees, let alone the more ambitious goal of 1.5 degrees, set by world leaders at the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Exceeding these thresholds is predicted to entail a litany of ills for tens of millions of people across the world, including increasingly common life-threatening heatwaves, freshwater shortages and coastal flooding due to rising sea levels.”

How the Geometry of Ancient Habitats May Have Influenced Human Brain Evolution (Dana)

The author writes, “There’s a pivotal scene in the 2012 film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey when Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins, and a company of dwarves are chased by orcs through a classic New Zealand landscape. For Northwestern University neuroscientist and engineer Malcolm MacIver, the scene is an excellent example of the kind of patchy landscape — dotted with trees, bushes, boxers, and rolling knolls — that may have shaped the evolution of higher intelligence in humans, compared to their aquatic ancestors. Specifically, it falls within a ‘Goldilocks zone’ — not too sparse, and not too dense — that favors strategic thinking and planning ahead, leading to the development of ‘planning’ circuitry in the human brain.”


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