Good News Monday: Planet of the Apes

Great apes at the San Diego Zoo receive a Covid-19 vaccine for animals

By Stella Chan and Scottie Andrew, CNN

Updated 4:10 PM ET, Fri March 5, 2021Members of the San Diego Zoo's orangutan and bonobo tribes have received a Covid-19 vaccine designated for non-human use, zoo officials said. Members of the San Diego Zoo’s orangutan and bonobo tribes have received a Covid-19 vaccine designated for non-human use, zoo officials said.

(CNN) Several great apes at the San Diego Zoo have been vaccinated against Covid-19 a few weeks after the zoo’s gorillas tested positive for the virus. Members of the zoo’s bonobo and orangutan troops were vaccinated using doses from a supply intended strictly for non-human use, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA) said in statement to CNN. Veterinarians identified members of the bonobo and orangutan troops most at risk who could be easily vaccinated, the organization said.

San Diego Zoo gorillas make full recovery from Covid-19

Vaccinations began in January and have continued up to this month, and the animals received their second dose after three weeks. “The animals are doing well and we have seen no adverse reactions from the vaccine. The wildlife in our care is closely monitored throughout their lives,” said Darla Davis, a SDZWA spokeswoman.

In January, eight of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s gorillas caught the virus, though their symptoms were mild and limited to coughing, congestion and fatigue. The troop has since fully recovered.

What We Eat Now

I’m inspired by Marty, of the witty blog snakesinthegrass2014, to revisit the infamous food pyramid.

Pre-pandemic food pyramid:

Healthy Eating Pyramid

Post-pandemic food pyramid:

As my friend D commented the other day, “Covid-19 stands for the 19 lbs we’ve gained.”

How Many Fruits and Veggies Should We Eat?

Harvard study says 2 fruits, 3 vegetables ‘right’ number of daily servings for a longer life

WWW.STUDYFINDS.ORG

For years, the recommendations have been vague and confusing. (What actually constitutes a “serving”?) But this clarifies the “what”, if not the “how much”.

Sadly, potatoes and corn don’t make the list. However, I remain convinced that the pleasure inherent in eating french fries (“chips” to you in the UK) absolutely prolongs life.

Good News Monday: The Ultimate Haircut

Baarack the overgrown sheep shorn of 35kg (78 lbs!) of matted wool.

From The Guardian

Escaped merino ram found on the lam in regional Australia.

A rogue overgrown sheep found roaming through regional Australia has been shorn of his 35kg fleece – a weight even greater than that of the famous New Zealand sheep Shrek, who was captured in 2005 after six years on the loose. The merino ram, dubbed Baarack by rescuers, was discovered wandering alone with an extraordinarily overgrown wool coat, and was promptly shorn to save his life.

Kyle Behrend, from the Edgar’s Mission farm sanctuary, told Reuters that it appeared Baarack was “once an owned sheep” who had escaped. Merino sheep do not shed their fleece and need to be shorn at least annually, as their wool continues to grow.

The hirsute ovine was found near Lancefield in Victoria, and rescuers said he had “eked out an existence” eating small shoots of grass.

“He had at one time been ear-tagged, however these appear to have been torn out by the thick, matted fleece around his face,” Behrend said. “He was in a bit of a bad way. He was underweight and, due to all of the wool around his face, he could barely see.”

Baarack is the latest in a long line of very large and woolly sheep to make international headlines.

In 2005 Shrek became a beloved celebrity in New Zealand after he spent six years evading capture and growing to a tremendous size.https://interactive.guim.co.uk/embed/aus/2021/02/ai2html-output_sheep

He was eventually shorn of his 27kg fleece, and even met the New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark, before he died in 2011.

A 2014 Guardian Australia analysis estimated that Shrek’s fleece could be used to produce 47.3 jumpers. (That’s “sweaters” in American.)

Based on an 70% yield assumption, Baarack’s fleece would be the equivalent of 61.3 wool sweaters, or 490 pairs of men’s business socks.

A shorn Baarack wearing a rug
 Thirty-five kilograms lighter, Baarack is adapting well Photograph: Edgar’s Mission

Shrek’s legacy much lives on in his home country, with TVNZ announcing the discovery of Baarack with the headline: “Lost Australian sheep brings back memories of our very own Shrek.”

In 2014 another escaped merino ram, called Shaun the sheep, was found with a 23.5kg fleece in New Zealand.

And last year in Australia an escaped ewe – eventually dubbed Ewenice – was relieved of her 20kg fleece after she was discovered in central Victoria.

But all sheep, Baarack included, still pale in comparison to Chris, a Canberran ram who was found in 2005 with a world record 41kg fleece – twice his body weight.

Chris’s fleece was donated to the National Museum of Australia, where it sits in a large display case. The relieved sheep was adopted to live comfortably on a sanctuary until he died in 2019.

Behrend said Baarack had adapted well to his new weight and was settling in with other sheep on the farm.

Life in the Slow Lane

Do you ever get to the point that life has gotten so far away from you that you don’t even know how to begin to make excuses?

That’s how blogging has been for me these past couple of weeks. A combination of factors that I rationally know are out of my control but are nonetheless stressful, plus long lists of specific things that need to be done, overlaid with general anxiety about world issues such as the weather and that damn impeachment trial. (Seriously — how could any sentient being think 45’s behavior was anything but inexcusable?!) But that one, at least, is in the rearview mirror for now.

I know this is a first world problem, so I apologize in advance.

Dear Husband (DH) and I are in the midst of renovating our soon-to-be-one-and-only-house, which is rapidly being gutted. This is all good news, though it means we are renting a townhome/apartment in another location and need to drive out periodically to pick up mail and make sure there are no contractors lying insensate under a random beam.

Meanwhile, we are trying with no success to date to get on a Covid vaccination schedule. We have signed up in both of the counties where our house and rental are and neither has resulted in an appointment since the state has nowhere near enough supplies for everyone who wants to get it.

On the good news front, our Texas house went under contract within a day of our lovely realtor — who is DH’s oldest daughter — notifying a few agents that we were preparing to sell it. Everything would be proceeding smoothly if it weren’t for, oh, deadly ice storms, massive amounts of snow, power outages, etc. We’re thankful not to be living there but worry about friends and family who are coping with this.

Selling the house also means having someone else pack and ship it. Anxiety-producing because a) we have a lot of things we hope to sell or donate and can’t manage this ourselves, and b) we have to relinquish all fantasies of control over the specifics of the process. I’m trying to adopt the attitude that “stuff is just stuff” and if something gets lost or broken we will replace it. But this is not helping me sleep at night… I’m not counting sheep, I’m counting boxes.

I guess, like all of us, I have to put my faith in whatever powers-that-be may exist, know that we will eventually be on the other side of pandemic-related stress, and just hunker down while managing the few small aspects that are within my control.

If anyone has any good tips for patience after this year of endless upheaval, please share!

Demolition derby!

Double Up!

 C.D.C. research finds that tightly fitted masks, or doubling up with both cloth and surgical masks, could reduce virus transmission by up to 96.5%.

This just in:
Wearing a mask — any mask — reduces the risk of infection with the coronavirus, but wearing a more tightly fitted surgical mask, or layering a cloth mask atop a surgical mask, can vastly increase protections to the wearer and others, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday.

New research by the agency shows that transmission of the virus can be reduced by up to 96.5 percent if both an infected individual and an uninfected individual wear tightly fitted surgical masks or a cloth-and-surgical-mask combination.

“Which Sounds Are the Most Annoying to Humans?”

The title of this article intrigued me, as I wondered if there are universally annoying sounds such as “nails on a chalkboard” (does anyone still have chalkboards? Does this reference mean anything to a younger generation?) — or if it is more subjective.

My list would have to include:

  • A screaming child, especially in a public place or an airplane
  • The sound of someone chewing loudly, esp. if there’s gum involved
  • A dental drill
  • The screech of a train pulling into the station
  • Donald Trump’s voice (hopefully, we will not hear it much longer)
  • Nervous clicking, tapping, etc. of long, fake nails. Even without the chalkboard.

The common denominators being Loud/Repetitive/Incessant/Harsh.

The author posits that the pandemic has made things worse, as being cooped up for weeks/months on end is bound to lower our collective tolerance. Odds are, your neighbor banging pots and pans might be (slightly) more tolerable if you weren’t forced to hear it day in, day out.

What drives YOU bonkers??

More Good News on Vaccines

Happy Hump Day! This info is very encouraging. Maybe we’re close to turning the corner on this vicious pandemic. How sad it didn’t happen much, much earlier. And if Congress defangs that crazy Marjorie Taylor Greene, it will be an all-around excellent week. Cheers!

[From New York Times]
“For once, we have some good news to talk about: the prospect of another vaccine coming online in the U.S., and a long-awaited indication that at least one vaccine reduces transmission, not just the severity of Covid-19.

Let’s start with the remarkable turnaround of the experimental vaccine from Novavax, a Maryland-based company that has never before brought a vaccine to market.

Last fall, Novavax postponed U.S. clinical trials because of manufacturing delays, jeopardizing the company’s $1.6 billion federal contract and leaving some to wonder whether they should write off the company’s shot entirely. In December, Novavax watched from the sidelines as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were approved.

But things have changed. Novavax announced last week that its vaccine produced robust protection in a large British trial and that it worked — although far less well — in a smaller study in South Africa. The company has also been able to quickly recruit volunteers for its U.S. trials because the two authorized vaccines have been difficult to get, and many see the Novavax trial as their best chance to get vaccinated.

So the company now stands a chance of having trial results this spring, with possible government authorization as early as April. If everything goes well, and that is a big if, Novavax could deliver enough additional doses to vaccinate 55 million Americans by the end of June. That would be on top of the 400 million doses that Moderna and Pfizer are contracted to supply the U.S. by the middle of the year — enough for 200 million people.

It gets better: Novavax has been laying the international groundwork for the eventual production of two billion doses per year — and its vaccine, unlike Moderna and Pfizer’s, can be stored and shipped at normal refrigeration temperatures.

As for protection against transmission, AstraZeneca recently released a report that offered an answer to one of the pandemic’s big questions: Will vaccines prevent people from giving the virus to others?

Researchers from the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca have found that not only did their vaccine protect people from serious illness and death but also had the potential to reduce transmission. Swabs taken from trial participants showed a 67 percent reduction in virus being detected among those vaccinated, though scientists warned that the data was preliminary and that masking remained necessary for all.

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is in U.S. trials, and the company has a deal to supply 300 million doses, enough for another 150 million people.”

Good News Monday: Something’s Better Than Nothing

To summarize some encouraging vaccine news in today’s New York Times:

  • All five vaccines with public results have eliminated Covid-19 deaths. They have also drastically reduced hospitalizations. “They’re all good trial results,” reports Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. “It’s great news.”
  • Don’t focus on the relatively minor differences among the vaccine results. The available data is very encouraging — including the vaccines’ effect on the virus’s variants.
  • Coronaviruses have been circulating for decades if not centuries, and they’re often mild. The common cold can be a coronavirus. The world isn’t going to eliminate coronaviruses — or this particular one— anytime soon.
  • We don’t need to eliminate Covid-19 for life to return to normal. We need to downgrade it from a deadly pandemic to a normal virus.
  • All five vaccines — from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson — look extremely good. Of the roughly 75,000 people who have received one of the five in a research trial, not a single person has died from Covid, and only a few people appear to have been hospitalized. None have remained hospitalized 28 days after receiving a shot.
  • For perspective, in 75,000 American adults, Covid has killed roughly 150 and sent several hundred more to the hospital. The vaccines reduce those numbers to zero and nearly zero, based on the research trials. A typical U.S. flu season kills between five and 15 out of every 75,000 adults and hospitalizes more than 100.
  • When you read that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 66 percent effective or that the Novavax vaccine was 89 percent effective, those numbers are referring to the prevention of all illness. Researchers count mild symptoms as a failure.
  • What about the highly contagious new virus variants that have emerged in Britain, Brazil and South Africa? There is no evidence yet that it increases deaths among vaccinated people. Two of the five vaccines — from Johnson & Johnson and Novavax — have reported some results from South Africa, and none of the people there who received a vaccine died of Covid.
  • The vaccines still provide considerable protection against the variant, though less than against the original version. Some protection appears to be enough to turn this coronavirus into a fairly normal disease in the vast majority of cases.
  • Any of the five vaccines can save your life. If you have to choose between getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine now or waiting three weeks to get the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, the experts say: Get what you can, as soon as you can. Don’t risk three more weeks of exposure.