An Epidemiologist Explains Why You Shouldn’t Dine Out for Valentine’s Day
By Ryan Malosh
Editor's Note: With another holiday approaching, it's tempting to want a taste of freedom from COVID-19 social distancing. Who doesn't want sweet nothings over a glass of Champagne and some chocolate cake? But it's also important to remember that daily case numbers are still higher now than they were throughout most of 2020. The risk of catching COVID-19 is still extremely high in most parts of the country. Epidemiologist Ryan Malosh answers some questions about eating out and socializing.
Why Can't I Eat Out for Valentine's Day if I Socially Distance?
Restrictions on indoor dining are some of the hardest to swallow. We all have our favorite restaurants, and the experience of eating out is a big part of feeling normal. In addition, many restaurants are cornerstones of our communities, and owners and staff have struggled throughout the pandemic.
But dining indoors remains a high-risk activity. The most effective prevention strategies – ventilation, physical distancing and wearing masks – are challenging in this setting. Even when physical distancing is possible, scientists have found that long-range transmission can occur. Restaurants are trying to innovate ways to determine how safe their spaces are - including using CO2 monitors to gauge ventilation - but these technologies are far from guarantees of safety.
One recent study suggested that policies such as indoor dining restrictions may have saved nearly 2,000 lives in Michigan in the past few months. Takeout and delivery are much safer options (and, I think, more romantic).
Would It Matter if I Go at Off-Hours?
Another study, using mobility data to examine community spread, found that capacity restrictions can reduce the number of new infections tied to indoor dining, but they do not eliminate the risk.
Further, with new SARS-CoV-2 variants circulating in a number of states, sitting for hours, maskless and indoors, with anyone outside your own household becomes even riskier. Experts know these variants spread more easily. Case counts, hospitalizations and deaths are starting to come down, but those encouraging trends are unlikely to continue if we collectively decide to throw caution to the wind now.
I've Been Vaccinated, So Why Can't I Burn My Mask?
First, the good news. The vaccines that have been authorized are marvels of medical science. The efficacy against symptomatic and severe infections is phenomenal, as high as 95% for the Pfizer vaccine. They are a big part of how we get back to something approximating normal. And evidence is emerging that vaccination can prevent asymptomatic transmission and reduces viral load, or the amount of virus people have inside them. These findings suggest that vaccination will also reduce transmission of the virus and contribute to herd immunity.
But the unknowns about how well vaccines work against these new variants mean we have to be careful just a bit longer – and we don't yet know how long that will be. Plus, masks and other prevention strategies may also be lowering our risk of other serious illnesses, such as influenza.
Everyone in My Pod Has Been Vaccinated. Is It Safe to Gather at Someone's House Without Masks?
I think small gatherings where everyone has completed the vaccine regimens are probably going to be relatively safe. There isn't much data to support this yet, because the proportion of people vaccinated in the U.S. is still relatively low. But the studies I mentioned above all suggest that once your "quaranteam" is fully vaccinated, it will likely be safe to reconnect in this way. And discouraging people from doing so might actually discourage vaccination.
Everyone I Know Says They Are Being Safe but Then I Hear That They Had Brunch Out With a Group of Friends. How Can I Best Tell When My Friends' Ideas of Being Safe Align With My Own Ideas?
Some studies suggest people are downplaying the risks they're taking. People do this because they don't want to be judged. I can tell you from my personal experience that the best way to get honest answers is to be honest yourself. Talk about what level of risk you're taking and what level you're willing to accept. If someone is taking risks that you're not comfortable with, it is OK to tell them you'll see them after you get vaccinated.
The bottom line is that there is a lot to be hopeful about as vaccine distribution ramps up in the U.S. and cases come down. The major challenges over the next few months are to continue the progress we're making on community spread and to ensure that vaccines are available to the most vulnerable communities in an equitable way.
Ryan Malosh is an Assistant Research Scientist, University of Michigan.
Disclosure statement: Ryan Malosh receives salary support from the Centers for Disease Control and the Simons Foundation.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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