Prepper Diary March 17: We get a Cold Snap for St Patrick’s Day

Despite the recent warm weather, we find that winter is not over as temperatures turn colder and fog heralds the arrival of rain and snow.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! My wife is making corned beef for dinner tonight, and I am very much looking forward to it. We will also have soda bread scones and it would not surprise me if she makes cabbage. She briefly bemoaned the lack of green beer, but that I will not miss.

The Weather Turns Colder

While we are not getting the two-to-four-feet of snow they had in Colorado and Wyoming, it has turned colder and wetter, making things damp and chilly with an occasional coating of fog. These are the blah days of March, when it is neither roaring like a lion nor mincing like a lamb. 

We knew winter was not over, but that doesn’t mean we were looking forward to its return. Making matters worse, it is the time of year to do our taxes, something I never enjoy. Thanks to our move, it is often taking three weeks to get mail forwarded from our old address to our new P.O. box. That means our incoming tax documents are late. Ah, the joys of paperwork.

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COVID-19 Increases in Europe Despite Continued U.S. Decline

Just two months ago, the U.S. was seeing COVID-19 cases grow at 9 percent per week. In the past week, the U.S. has seen growth of 1.4 percent. Meanwhile cases across Europe are climbing.

As cases of COVID-19 continue to slow in the U.S. with hospitalizations down about 70 percent from their peak, cases in Europe increased 9 percent over the past week. The big question is whether a similar increase lies in the future for the United States.

According to the WHO, its new variations of the virus that are causing the European increase, as reported in this article from the Associated Press:

The variant first found in the U.K. is spreading significantly in 27 European countries monitored by WHO and is dominant in at least 10 countries: Britain, Denmark, Italy, Ireland, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Israel, Spain and Portugal.

It is up to 50% more transmissible than the virus that surged last spring and again in the fall, making it more adept at thwarting measures that were previously effective, WHO experts warned. Scientists have concluded that it is also more deadly.

In reality, the difference in numbers may related to the greater success with vaccination in the U.S. The European Union, as we have reported before, was slow to order vaccines and is lagging the U.S. in both vaccine availability and the number of people being vaccinated per day.

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COVID-19 Cases Level Off as Vaccination Accelerates in U.S.

As the decrease in COVID-19 cases levels off and some worry that social distancing has been relaxed too early, vaccination ramps up.

After dropping for the better part of two months, the number of COVID-19 cases has leveled off in the U.S. Hospitalizations continue to drop, which is good news, and stand at 47,352. In the past 24 hours, there have been 50,925 new COVID-19 cases and 1,129 COVID-related deaths reported in the U.S.

Globally, there have been more than 114 million cases and 2.5 million deaths. The average number of cases reported daily is around 350,000. So while COVID has retreated, it has definitely not disappeared.

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COVID-19 Cases Drop 39 Percent in Two Weeks

Is the plunging number of new COVID-19 cases part of a normal peak and valley, or is the vaccine pushing numbers down?

What was once a map red with COVID-19 hot spots on the New York Time’s interactive COVID-19 page is now soft oranges and pale yellows as the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to decline.  We recently reported that new cases had declined 30 percent over a two-week period.  The latest two weeks have seen a 39 percent decline. In fact, after peaking on January 8 at around 260,000, the 7-day moving average of new cases in the United States is now less than 95,000, the lowest it has been since the first week of November.

Hospitalizations and deaths are also dropping in the U.S., although those curves are lagging.  In the past 24 hours, there have been 63,850 cases reported, 1,080 deaths, and 67,023 people are hospitalized.  That is 60,000 fewer hospitalizations due to the coronavirus than we saw at the peak.

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The Storm Bloweth Over and Ammo Prices Continue to Rise

We’ve weathered he winter snow, now we have to deal with high ammo prices. It may be time to roll our own.

The winter storm has come and gone, but after snow two out of the three previous days, it has piled up and may well remain until we experience a melt up this weekend.  In fact, we now have the deepest snow we’ve had all winter and the longest cold spell yet.  Our wood stoves were struggling to keep up.  When we wake up it is 64 or 65 in the main rooms and the temps slowly rise to 70 or 71 if we are lucky.  We didn’t have any of those days like we had over Christmas when the indoor temperature reached 75. I expect part of the blame is due to the high winds, but I also blame the high moisture content of the wood.  It not only burns slower, we have to leave both dampers open wider and more heat goes up the chimney.

My big Fisher stove burns best with five or six pieces in it, so it chews threw wood at a rapid pace.  We are making frequent trips to the wood pile.

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After Weeks of Growth, COVID-19 Cases Show Significant Decline

After increasing rapidly for three months, COVID-19 cases in the U.S. took a sudden downturn this past week. Is it the vaccine or just another wave?

In a reversal that probably surprises many who expected a New Year’s surge of Coronavirus cases, the number of reported COVID-19 cases in the United States took a sharp downward turn in the past week.  After peaking at more than 280,000, the country’s 7-day moving average has dropped to 219,000, a decrease of more than 20 percent. Deaths, which are a lagging indicator, appear to have leveled off.

In he U.S., which has a total of 23.9 million cases, 169,641 were reported in the past 24 hours. There were also 1,730 deaths reported for a total of 397,612.

Like the U.S., the UK has also experienced a steep decline in reported cases, while cases in Germany, Italy and much of Europe continued their multi-week drop.  We can see in the declining growth rates shown in the week-over-week table below:

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COVID-19 Cases Rise in U.S. as Vaccination Program Kicks Off

As the vaccine starts rolling out around the country, numbers continue to rise, possibly as a result of Thanksgiving.

As Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines rolls out to healthcare workers across the U.S., followed next week by residents at nursing homes and other elder-care facilities, one can’t help but think it is in the nick of time as there were more than 1.5 million cases reported across the country in the week ending December 14.

One of them was my pregnant daughter, who only took the test because there were 56 reported cases at her fiancé’s employer, and he worked closely with people who were known to be positive. He tested negative, but she tested positive.  So they tested him again – still negative.  As a result, she has no idea how she became infected.

Being pregnant complicates medical care, and COVID-19 is no exception.  As soon as her OB/GYN found out, he wanted her to go to the hospital, even though she had no symptoms.  They ran a bunch of tests, decided the baby was fine, and sent her home with ab oxygen monitor and instructions to come back if the readings fell below a certain level.

It’s hard for her to decide if she has symptoms, because so many of them are symptoms you would experience in the last month of pregnancy, including being tired.  But she is home quarantining for at least two weeks.  Most importantly, they want her to be negative by the time she has the baby, which is expected in early January, so it will be touch and go.

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Coronavirus Report August 4: To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate

A safe and effective vaccine will be a step forward, but far from a victory march in the battle against COVID-19.

We are not here to recommend that you vaccinate or that you don’t.  Just like the decision on whether to wear a mask or to self-quarantine, this is your choice.  Do your research and make whatever decision best suits you.

It is becoming clear, however, that vaccines will not be a magic pill and are unlikely to get rid of the pandemic as quickly as appeared.  But we hope that a vaccine will protect the elderly and other at-risk groups, slow the rate of infections and thereby reduce the burden on hospitals, and reduce fear.  As we have reported before, fear of the virus is responsible for many of the stupid policies and bad decisions that have been made by individuals, public health officials and politicians.

Whether you, or I, choose to take a vaccine (when we have one) isn’t the point.  The point is that having a vaccine will help things calm down and will help places stay open, and that’s going to be important for all of us.  We probably won’t be getting back to a semblance of “normal” any time soon without a vaccine. That’s enough to earn my support.

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Coronavirus Report July 18: Antibody Issues and Vaccine Doubts

There are now more than 14 million cases of COVID-19 across the globe, with about 25 percent inthe U.S. Now there are fears that victims might get it again.

Generally, when you fight off a virus like the coronavirus, your body builds antibodies that seek out and destroy the invaders.  After the virus is gone, the antibodies remain and help you fight off the disease in the future, providing immunity.

Vaccines leverage this antibody effect by causing your body to generate antibodies without causing you to be sick.  To achieve this effect, traditional vaccines are made from a dead, weakened, or attenuated version of the virus. Many of the COVID-19 vaccines in development use new, advanced techniques, but they all trigger the body to make antibodies.

What some scientists are seeing is that the antibodies from COVID-19 might not stick around for long enough to provide effective, long-term protection.  That means that people who catch COVID-19 and recover might catch it again some months or a year down the road.  It also means that vaccines may be less effective or that people will need repeated dosing to keep their antibody levels high enough to prevent infection.

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Coronavirus Report July 15: Vaccines and Difficult Times Ahead

The CDC has dire predictions for the coming flu season, but COVID-19 vaccine development continues to offer hope.

People seem to think things are pretty bad now, with the coronavirus spreading across the U.S., South America, and India at unprecedented rates, but the Director of the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control warns that things could get worse.  He thinks “the fall and winter of 2020 and 2021 are probably going  to be one of the most difficult times we’ve experienced in American Public Health.”

The problem, it seems, is the co-occurrence of COVID-19 and the flu hitting at the same time, difficulty identifying who has what, and the impact of COVID-19 on hospitals that traditionally fill up with flu patients.  The CDC recommends everyone get the flu vaccine.  We suggest the height of flu season might be a good time to practice self-imposed quarantine.

Of course, if we continue to wear masks, wash our hands, and practice social distancing, we might see far fewer cases of the flu than we do today.  That could also be impacted by the schools staying closed as influenza can be spread by school children.  Much about COVID-19 remains unknown and, despite the best efforts of experts, unpredictable.  Take what actions you feel are necessary to protect yourself and others and proceed at your own risk.

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