Coronavirus Spreading in U.S. Could Cause 'Severe' Disruption to Daily Life, Health Officials Warn
The warning was prompted by the spread of the new virus in countries outside its epicenter, such as Iran, Japan, South Korea and Italy, NPR reported.
"It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, who leads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) division for immunization and respiratory diseases, said during a press release Tuesday.
Messonnier said that people in the U.S. should prepare to provide childcare in the case of school closures, arrange to work remotely and investigate the possibilities of receiving remote medical care.
"I understand this whole situation may seem overwhelming and that disruption to everyday life may be severe, but these are things that people need to start thinking about now," she said.
Currently there are very few cases of #COVID19 in the US & no reported community spread. But as more countries see… https://t.co/iUe8heD4by— CDC (@CDC)1582669195.0
So far, the new disease has sickened more than 80,000 people in 37 countries and killed more than 2,600, according to The New York Times. The U.S. has seen only 57 cases to date, and 40 of them were linked to the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was the sight of an outbreak when it docked in Japan.
"The immediate risk to the general American public remains low. But, as we have warned, that has the potential to change quickly," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during Tuesday's press conference, according to NBC News.
So far, the U.S. has responded by issuing travel restrictions and instituting the first federal quarantine in 50 years, according to NPR, but officials do not think such methods can succeed forever.
"We cannot hermetically seal off the United States to a virus," Azar told the Senate Tuesday, according to The New York Times. "And we need to be realistic about that."
Cases are falling in China, where the disease first emerged in December of 2019. Epidemiologist Bruce Aylward said this spoke to the effectiveness of steps taken in the country to fight the disease, such as locking down impacted cities and building new hospitals.
"The implications are that you can actually effect the course of this disease, but it takes a very aggressive and tough program," Aylward said at a Word Health Organization (WHO) press conference Tuesday reported by ABC News.
At the same time, the illness has begun to spread outside China. New clusters have emerged in Iran, where 95 cases and 15 deaths have been confirmed, and in Italy, which has reported 322 cases and 10 deaths as of Tuesday. Public health officials want Americans to be prepared for similar outbreaks in U.S. communities.
"We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare with the expectation that this could be bad," Messonnier said, as NPR reported.
Despite the warnings of his own health officials, President Donald Trump has downplayed the risk of the disease.
"You may ask about the coronavirus, which is very well under control in our country," he said while visiting India, according to The New York Times. "We have very few people with it, and the people that have it are, in all cases, I have not heard anything other — the people are getting better, they're all getting better."
Some have expressed concerns that the administration's cuts to public health programs could hamper the U.S. response. The administration did request $2.5 billion from Congress this week to contain and fight the new virus. The money would go towards public health surveillance programs, testing for the disease and vaccine development, according to NBC News.
In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the request "long overdue and completely inadequate to the scale of this emergency."
For almost two years, the Trump Administration has left critical positions in charge of managing pandemics at the N… https://t.co/0mZzEmYz2z— Nancy Pelosi (@Nancy Pelosi)1582607462.0
She pointed out that Trump's recent budget had included cuts to CDC funding."Weeks after the #TrumpBudget called for slashing the CDC budget during this coronavirus epidemic, this undersized funding request shows an ongoing failure to understand urgent public health needs," she said.
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By Tara Lohan
Warming temperatures on land and in the water are already forcing many species to seek out more hospitable environments. Atlantic mackerel are swimming farther north; mountain-dwelling pikas are moving upslope; some migratory birds are altering the timing of their flights.
Numerous studies have tracked these shifting ranges, looked at the importance of wildlife corridors to protect these migrations, and identified climate refugia where some species may find a safer climatic haven.
"There's a huge amount of scientific literature about where species will have to move as the climate warms," says U.C. Berkeley biogeographer Matthew Kling. "But there hasn't been much work in terms of actually thinking about how they're going to get there — at least not when it comes to wind-dispersed plants."
Kling and David Ackerly, professor and dean of the College of Natural Resources at U.C. Berkeley, have taken a stab at filling this knowledge gap. Their recent study, published in Nature Climate Change, looks at the vulnerability of wind-dispersed species to climate change.
It's an important field of research, because while a fish can more easily swim toward colder waters, a tree may find its wind-blown seeds landing in places and conditions where they're not adapted to grow.
Kling is careful to point out that the researchers weren't asking how climate change was going to change wind; other research suggests there likely won't be big shifts in global wind patterns.
Instead the study involved exploring those wind patterns — including direction, speed and variability — across the globe. The wind data was then integrated with data on climate variation to build models trying to predict vulnerability patterns showing where wind may either help or hinder biodiversity from responding to climate change.
One of the study's findings was that wind-dispersed or wind-pollinated trees in the tropics and on the windward sides of mountain ranges are more likely to be vulnerable, since the wind isn't likely to move those dispersers in the right direction for a climate-friendly environment.
The researchers also looked specifically at lodgepole pines, a species that's both wind-dispersed and wind-pollinated.
They found that populations of lodgepole pines that already grow along the warmer and drier edges of the species' current range could very well be under threat due to rising temperatures and related climate alterations.
"As temperature increases, we need to think about how the genes that are evolved to tolerate drought and heat are going to get to the portions of the species' range that are going to be getting drier and hotter," says Kling. "So that's what we were able to take a stab at predicting and estimating with these wind models — which populations are mostly likely to receive those beneficial genes in the future."
That's important, he says, because wind-dispersed species like pines, willows and poplars are often keystone species whole ecosystems depend upon — especially in temperate and boreal forests.
And there are even more plants that rely on pollen dispersal by wind.
"That's going to be important for moving genes from the warmer parts of a species' range to the cooler parts of the species' range," he says. "This is not just about species' ranges shifting, but also genetic changes within species."
Kling says this line of research is just beginning, and much more needs to be done to test these models in the field. But there could be important conservation-related benefits to that work.
"All these species and genes need to migrate long distances and we can be thinking more about habitat connectivity and the vulnerability of these systems," he says.
The more we learn, the more we may be able to do to help species adapt.
"The idea is that there will be some landscapes where the wind is likely to help these systems naturally adapt to climate change without much intervention, and other places where land managers might really need to intervene," he says. "That could involve using assisted migration or assisted gene flow to actually get in there, moving seeds or planting trees to help them keep up with rapid climate change."
Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis. http://twitter.com/TaraLohan
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
The last Ice Age eliminated some giant mammals, like the woolly rhino. Conventional thinking initially attributed their extinction to hunting. While overhunting may have contributed, a new study pinpointed a different reason for the woolly rhinos' extinction: climate change.
The last of the woolly rhinos went extinct in Siberia nearly 14,000 years ago, just when the Earth's climate began changing from its frozen conditions to something warmer, wetter and less favorable to the large land mammal. DNA tests conducted by scientists on 14 well-preserved rhinos point to rapid warming as the culprit, CNN reported.
"Humans are well known to alter their environment and so the assumption is that if it was a large animal it would have been useful to people as food and that must have caused its demise," says Edana Lord, a graduate student at the Center for Paleogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, and co-first author of the paper, Smithsonian Magazine reported. "But our findings highlight the role of rapid climate change in the woolly rhino's extinction."
The study, published in Current Biology, notes that the rhino population stayed fairly consistent for tens of thousands of years until 18,500 years ago. That means that people and rhinos lived together in Northern Siberia for roughly 13,000 years before rhinos went extinct, Science News reported.
The findings are an ominous harbinger for large species during the current climate crisis. As EcoWatch reported, nearly 1,000 species are expected to go extinct within the next 100 years due to their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. Tigers, eagles and rhinos are especially vulnerable.
The difference between now and the phenomenon 14,000 years ago is that human activity is directly responsible for the current climate crisis.
To figure out the cause of the woolly rhinos' extinction, scientists examined DNA from different rhinos across Siberia. The tissue, bone and hair samples allowed them to deduce the population size and diversity for tens of thousands of years prior to extinction, CNN reported.
Researchers spent years exploring the Siberian permafrost to find enough samples. Then they had to look for pristine genetic material, Smithsonian Magazine reported.
It turns out the wooly rhinos actually thrived as they lived alongside humans.
"It was initially thought that humans appeared in northeastern Siberia fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago, around when the woolly rhinoceros went extinct. But recently, there have been several discoveries of much older human occupation sites, the most famous of which is around thirty thousand years old," senior author Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics, said in a press release.
"This paper shows that woolly rhino coexisted with people for millennia without any significant impact on their population," Grant Zazula, a paleontologist for Canada's Yukon territory and Simon Fraser University who was not involved in the research, told Smithsonian Magazine. "Then all of a sudden the climate changed and they went extinct."
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Transitioning to renewable energy can help reduce global warming, and Jennie Stephens of Northeastern University says it can also drive social change.
For example, she says that locally owned businesses can lead the local clean energy economy and create new jobs in underserved communities.
"We really need to think about … connecting climate and energy with other issues that people wake up every day really worried about," she says, "whether it be jobs, housing, transportation, health and well-being."
To maximize that potential, she says the energy sector must have more women and people of color in positions of influence. Research shows that leadership in the solar industry, for example, is currently dominated by white men.
"I think that a more inclusive, diverse leadership is essential to be able to effectively make these connections," Stephens says. "Diversity is not just about who people are and their identity, but the ideas and the priorities and the approaches and the lens that they bring to the world."
So she says by elevating diverse voices, organizations can better connect the climate benefits of clean energy with social and economic transformation.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.