Numlock News: August 26, 2020 • Concert, Drug Test, Workation
By Walt Hickey
About 1,500 people gathered in Arena Leipzig on Saturday as part of a research program to determine how COVID-19 spreads in stadium-style events. Everyone had to get a negative test within 48 hours before attending the show — German pop singer Tim Bendzko provided the day’s entertainment — and it cost $1.2 million to put together. They conducted three scenarios, one with no social distancing pretty much on par with the Before Times, a second with multiple points of entry designed to cut down on crowding and give everyone a little space, and the third forcing people to stand five feet apart pretty strictly, and everyone’s position was monitored by electronic tracers, fluorescent hand sanitizer to track touched surfaces, and a smoke machine to show aerosols. In a few weeks, after some testing, the researchers hope to develop guidance for venues and event spaces.
Local officials in the Florida Keys voted 4-1 to release swarms of mosquitoes manufactured by a company named Oxitec. The mosquitoes are engineered to have a “self-limiting” gene that means their offspring don’t survive until adulthood, and are all male: the goal is to release enough of them that they will eliminate the population of parasitic pests and cut back on the use of pesticides. The insecticides sprayed by the state of Florida by aircraft are only 30 percent to 50 percent effective, and this field test in 2021 or 2022 hopes to prove this out this as a strategy in fighting West Nile and other diseases that are carried by the bugs. Oxitec has tested their mosquitoes previously in Malaysia, Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman Islands, and in a recent Brazilian test claimed 95 percent efficacy.
Wild polio has been eliminated in the continent of Africa, with more than 95 percent of the population immunized. Globally, two out of three polio strains have been eliminated entirely, and the third one is on their heels, now existing in the wild in just Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since the formation of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, cases of wild polio have fallen from 350,000 per year to just 33 in 2018. The declaration came after assessments from 47 African countries found no cases were missed, though 16 countries are experiencing small outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio, with a total of 177 cases identified this year.
Great job, everyone, 2019 saw the highest level of positive outcomes in workforce drug testing rates in sixteen years, I mean it stellar work out there. As recently as 2012, just 3.5 percent of drug tests were coming back as “had a great weekend thanks for asking,” a level that has since risen to 4.5 percent. That rise is vastly thanks to marijuana: since 2015 alone, the rate of positive tests for marijuana is up 29 percent — up to 2.5 percent in 2019 from 1.9 percent then — thanks in large part to society coming around on some stuff. Meanwhile, Americans are testing positive for cocaine, opiates and heroin as or less frequently than they had been in 2015, though methamphetamine is still a serious problem.
Weekly surveys from the U.S. Census Bureau inquiring about how Americans are doing have returned with a fairly decisive “I’ve been better.” During the third week of July, 41 percent of adult respondents to the survey reported symptoms of clinical anxiety or depression, compared to just 11 percent who reported those symptoms in the same survey done in early 2019. Younger people — specifically those aged 18 to 29 — were most likely to report above-average symptoms of anxiety and depression: Among Californians, nearly three quarters of those respondents said they were unable to stop or control worry. The rate’s been rising all summer, increasing from 33.9 percent of Americans reporting symptoms in May to 41 percent in late July. So nah, don’t worry, it’s not just you.
Annually about 20 million tonnes of forage fish are pulled out of the ocean, with 70 percent of them being fed to farmed fish, and most of the rest fed to chicken and pigs. This is bad: pulling the wild animals that serve as the foundation of the ecosystem out of it en masse so you can grind them up to feed other farmed animals is some protein arithmetic that doesn’t precisely add up. In 1997, it took three tonnes of forage fish to make a tonne of salmon. Farmers have tried to reduce that: forage fish make up 25 percent of a farmed salmon’s diet, down from 70 percent in the ‘80s — but you have to get the protein from somewhere. Some have looked to algae, but that involved setting up basically another farm entirely to support the already existing farms. One alternative: take spoiled produce that never makes it to market, use it to grow insects, kill those insects and feed them to the fish. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that insects could replace 25 percent to 100 percent of the forage fish now used in the diets of farmed fish. In tests, fish raised on 20 percent fly larvae tended to have higher survivability than the control group.
Seeing the word “workation” may make you briefly heave, but it’s a reliable way that Japanese companies are getting workers to relax in a new environment on the company dime, and also support a tourist industry that’s been devastated by national shutdowns. The Japanese government launched a 1.3 trillion yen ($12.6 billion) travel campaign, angling to get people moving around the country which saw a 99.9 percent year-over-year decline in foreign visitors in the four months leading up to July and business down at travel companies 92.9 percent in June. One solution has been basically a surge in corporate retreats, where companies will send groups of employees to work on the beach on the cheap to lift morale while encouraging some R&R, and the government is actively encouraging it. Japan’s domestic tourism industry struggles because most people tend to travel at specific times — summer and year-end — and workers take the fewest paid holidays of 19 countries and regions and just half their allotted vacation on average.
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