The 'Great Burning Man Plague of 2015'
’’‘It's being called the "great Burning Man plague of 2015." And no it's not all the wealthy tech elite who have been accused of ruining the ethos of the festival. It's a bug infestation. The Twitterverse has been abuzz (pun fully intended) leading up to the annual "burn," and earlier this week one of the organizers, John Curley, confirmed the bug rumors on the Burning Man blog.
— Smithsonian Magazine (@SmithsonianMag) August 21, 2015
First, for those who aren't familiar, Burning Man is a week-long annual event that began in San Francisco in 1986 and migrated to the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada. At its most basic, the event is described as an experiment in community, art, radical self-expression and radical self-reliance. But if you listen to a festivalgoer, that is just the beginning of what the annual event really is. Burners—as they call themselves—wax poetic about "the mind-altering experience of Burning Man."
The festival has become massive, turning out some 60,000 people (making the Black Rock's population swell to more than Nevada's state capital for a week). Whether you think the festival is just "all dusty hippies and Silicon Valley tech bros at a giant desert rave" or a radical experiment in anti-capitalist ecotopia living, one thing is for sure. This year, the festival has a serious bug problem.
"You may have seen the bug rumors on the internet," wrote Curley. "We are here to tell you that they are all true. Well maybe not all of the rumors, but the bugs are real. They’re everywhere. They bite. They crawl all over you. They get up and in you."
— Bryan Warner (@BryanWarner775) August 19, 2015
— Champagne Lounge (@CLoungebrc) August 18, 2015
Curley explains what they think has caused the infestation: "Due to unseasonably wet weather, the grass on the hills is unusually verdant, and that’s resulted in more bugs showing up in the desert than usual. There are green beetles called stink bugs (so-called because they emit a coriander-like odor when disturbed), mosquitos, and gnat-like seed bugs called Nysius. One entomologist reports that they might be causing skin irritations not because they’re biting, but because they’ve likely been eating mustard seed, which has been proliferating in the region recently, and the mustard oil irritates the skin when the bugs are smashed."
He is quick to downplay the bug problem, saying "these bugs are more of a mild nuisance than a full-blown infestation that should cause any major concern with Burning Man participants." Desert bugs, including species of Nysius, tend to move in massive swarms looking for food and water. “Desert species are prone to boom/bust cycles,” entomologist Alex Wild told Gizmodo. “[They] may just be passing through.” For some insight into the media hype about the bugs, Chris Taylor at Mashable has a great piece on why everyone needs to "chill out."
— ☞ Chris Messina ☜ (@chrismessina) August 19, 2015
Organizers and the tens of thousands of participants who will descend on "the Playa," as the area is called, are hoping that Wild is right. Burning Man officially begins August 30 and runs through Sept. 7.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
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