Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017, firstname.lastname@example.org
New Mexico Wolf Pack Destroyed After Alpha Female Killed, Yearling Flees
Wolf Mother’s Undisclosed Death in April Follows March Killing of Mate, Pup
SILVER CITY, N.M.— A pack of endangered Mexican gray wolves has been eliminated in the Gila National Forest through a combination of private trapping and federal shooting on behalf of the livestock industry.
Conservationists learned today that the Prieto pack’s nine-year-old alpha female died in federal custody on April 25 and that a yearling has fled dozens of miles from his natal range. These events follow the federal shooting in March of the alpha male and a pup, and the trapping, maiming and/or deaths of seven other pack members during 2018 and 2019.
“This latest incident is the cruel final blow to the Prieto pack, which struggled for two years to survive the Fish and Wildlife Service and avowed wolf-haters in the livestock industry,” said Michael Robinson at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ll do everything in our power to end the policy of looking the other way on so-called ‘accidental trapping’ of wolves. It’s crucial to stop the federal government’s sickening program of wolf trapping and shooting.”
The alpha female was caught in a privately set trap on April 24. When notified of this, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to take the wolf into captivity because the pack was deplored by local ranchers, even though she showed no significant injuries and no removal order was issued for her. The wolf died the next day of apparent capture myopathy, a stress response in which the body overheats.
The alpha female was the granddaughter of one of the first wolves released in 1998, who also died of capture myopathy after federal capture in 2005.
A male and a female wolf of the Prieto Pack were trapped in December 2018, resulting in the death of the female and causing the male to lose a leg and his freedom.
Following those losses, the pack began preying on livestock. In February 2019 another pack member was found dead, and in March 2019 the government trapped and removed two more; one was later released and is now a lone wolf in the wild.
In November two more wolves were trapped by private parties. One wolf was taken into federal custody, and the other was seen dragging a trap on its paw. This wolf was later seen with the trap gone but part of its paw missing, and has not been located in recent months. And in March federal agents shot the alpha male and a pup.
“The government is supposed to be recovering these endangered animals but is far too cavalier with their lives,” said Robinson. “Though the feds claim they’re looking at the population as a whole, this recurring mismanagement is precisely why the Mexican wolf is in worse genetic shape now than when reintroduction began more than two decades ago.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service currently has an open comment period through June 15, to determine the scope of issues to be considered in the course of a court-ordered revision in its 2015 Mexican wolf management rule that must conclude next May.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Hippocampus nalu, also known as the African pygmy seahorse, is about the size of a rice grain, and was found living well camouflaged among algae and sand in Sodwana Bay, South Africa.Photograph by Richard Smith
In rough, boulder-strewn waters off eastern South Africa, researchers have found a new species: a pygmy seahorse about the size of a grain of rice. null
The finding shocked them because all seven species of pygmy seahorse, except for one in Japan, inhabit the Coral Triangle, a biodiverse region of more than two million square miles in the southwestern Pacific. This one lives 5,000 miles away, the first pygmy seahorse seen in all of the Indian Ocean and the continent of Africa.
“It’s like finding a kangaroo in Norway,” says Richard Smith, a marine biologist based in the United Kingdom and co-author of a new study on the species, known as the African or Sodwana Bay pygmy seahorse. The second name refers to the location where it was found, a popular scuba-diving spot close to the Mozambique border.
The new species looks somewhat similar to other pygmy seahorses, except that it has one set of spines on its back that have sharp, incisor-like points on the tips, says co-author Graham Short, an ichthyologist at the California Academy of Sciences and the Australian Museum in Sydney. In contrast, the other similar pygmy seahorses have flat-tipped spines.
“We really don’t know what these spines are used for,” Short says. “Many species of seahorses in general are spiny, so their presence could be possibly due to sexual selection—the females may prefer spinier males.” (Related: Strange mating habits of the seahorse.)
The surprising discovery, described in a study published May 19 in the journal ZooKeys, shows how little we know about the ocean, particularly when it comes to tiny creatures, the authors say—and that there are likely many more pygmy seahorse species to be identified. null
“A gift from the sea”
Dive instructor Savannah Nalu Olivier first stumbled upon the creature in Sodwana Bay in 2017, while examining bits of algae on the seafloor. The bay is known for having many species of rare fish, sharks, and sea turtles.
She shared photographs of the fish with her colleagues, and in 2018 they made their way to Smith, who, with colleague Louw Claassens, collected several specimens of the animal at depths of 40 to 55 feet. null
The researchers have named the new seahorse Hippocampus nalu, after Olivier, whose nickname is appropriately “Fish.” (She’s also a Pisces.) In the South African languages Xhosa and Zulu, “nalu” roughly translates to “here it is.”
“I told her that this was a gift from the sea,” says Louis Olivier, Savannah’s father, who owns a scuba diving outfit called Pisces Diving Sodwana Bay. He adds he’s “super stoked about her discovery.”
Smith sent several specimens of the new species to Short, who analyzed their genetics and body structures using a CT scanner.
His research revealed that, like other pygmy seahorses, the newly found animal has two wing-like structures on its back, rather than one, as in larger seahorses. These “wings” in general serve an unknown purpose for seahorses.
Also like other pygmy seahorses, the African species has only one gill slit on its upper back, instead of two below each side of the head, like larger seahorses—another mystery. null
That would be “like having a nose on the back of your neck,” Short says.
But the new seahorse is unique from its tiny kin in that it was found living in turf-like algae, amid boulders and sand. Sodwana Bay has large swells, and the little seahorses appear to be comfortable being swept about, says Smith, who observed a pygmy seahorse get covered in sand and then wriggle its way out.
“They regularly get sand-blasted,” Smith says. Other pygmy seahorses, which stick to the calmer waters around coral reefs, “are more dainty. But this [species] is built of sturdier stuff.” null
Like other pygmy seahorses, the African version is thought to eat tiny copepods and crustaceans. It also is well camouflaged to match its surroundings.
This finding “demonstrates that there are still many discoveries to be made in the oceans, even in shallow waters near the coast,” says Thomas Trnski, head of natural sciences at the Auckland Museum in New Zealand, who wasn’t involved in the study. Almost all pygmy seahorses have been discovered in just the last 20 years, he adds.
The only pygmy seahorse found outside the Coral Triangle is the Japanese pygmy seahorse, also known as the “Japan pig,” first described in August 2018.
Although populations of regular seahorses have fallen in many areas because of harvesting for use in traditional Chinese medicine and the aquarium trade, that’s not an issue for pygmy seahorses because they are difficult to find, Short says. That being said, some of these species have very low population densities, and there’s not enough data to get a good sense of how many there are, Smith adds.
These fish can spread only very short distances via the current. The study suggests that Hippocampus nalu diverged from the ancestors of all known pygmy seahorses species more than 12 million years ago.
“This means that it is extremely likely that there are many more species of pygmy seahorses yet to be discovered in the western Indian Ocean” and beyond, Short says.
The launcher will be released from a Boeing 747 named Cosmic Girl. Author: JOHN ANTCZAK Associated Press Published: 12:29 AM EDT May 21, 2020
LOS ANGELES — Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit is targeting the coming weekend for its first attempt to launch a demonstration payload into space aboard a rocket released from beneath the wing of a Boeing 747.
The air launch is scheduled for Sunday off the coast of Southern California and will only proceed if conditions are satisfactory, the company said Wednesday.
“Although air-launched systems like ours are less vulnerable to bad weather than fixed ground-launch systems, we’ll be watching the weather closely and being cautious for this maiden flight. Should our flight slip, we have a launch window open at a similar time on May 25th,” it said.
The carrier aircraft, named Cosmic Girl, will take off from Mojave Air and Space Port in the Mojave Desert and fly out over the Pacific.
Release of the LauncherOne rocket would occur near San Nicolas Island, part of the Channel Islands off the California coast.
This April 12, 2020 photo shows a Boeing 747 with a rocket slung beneath a wing in its final major test before an upcoming demonstration of its system in which the rocket will be carried aloft and launched. Virgin Orbit
American actor turned environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio has pledged his support for a gorilla conservation park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Virunga National Park needs $2 million (€1.8 million) in funding to stay afloat after suffering an attack in April of this year. A suspected Rwandan militia group allegedly killed 12 park rangers in the ambush. Ever since, the lack of security patrols has put the endangered mountain gorilla population at even greater risk.
“Virunga urgently needs funds to protect the endangered mountain gorilla population, to provide support to the rangers and the families of rangers who have fallen in the line of duty, and to help deliver essential disease prevention efforts,” the actor told BBC News.
“I had the great honour of meeting and supporting Virunga’s courageous team in their fight against illegal oil drilling in 2013,” he said.
DiCaprio has announced that he is donating towards the Virunga Fund via his organisation Earth Alliance. In a recent Instagram post, he wrote, “The future of Virunga hangs in the balance as it deals with the impacts of Ebola and COVID-19, and now this recent attack.”https://www.instagram.com/p/CAVVjUdlaR1/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=12&wp=743&rd=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.euronews.com&rp=%2Fliving%2F2020%2F05%2F19%2Fleonardo-dicaprio-saves-gorilla-park-by-donating-to-1-8-million-fund#%7B%22ci%22%3A0%2C%22os%22%3A2905%2C%22ls%22%3A1164%2C%22le%22%3A1183%7D
Other contributors to the fund include the Emerson Collective, Global Wildlife Conservation and the European Commission.
Why save Virunga National Park?
Virunga National Park is the oldest nature reserve in Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world and home to the endangered mountain gorilla. In total, the park provides a habitat for several hundred species of birds, reptiles and mammals.
Two active volcanoes located in the park, Mount Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira, have helped shape its unique ecosystem. Over 3,000 species of flora and fauna have been recorded so far, including animals like the blue-headed tree agama, the African elephant and the golden monkey, which is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.
There are fewer than 1,200 mountain gorillas left in the world
The Gorilla Organization is a UK-based charity working to protect our closest living relatives. Today, there are fewer than 1,200 mountain gorillas left in the world, so the charity encourages the public to adopt a gorilla for £3 a month to help save them from the threat of extinction.
They are building a ‘Gorilla safe zone’ in the DR of Congo basin rainforest by planting millions of trees. This is to help local communities and stop them entering the national parks where the last wild gorillas can survive.
Researchers say the new models show how even small differences in timing could have prevented the worst exponential growth of coronavirus cases. Author: TEGNA Published: 5:39 AM EDT May 21, 2020
New modeling shows that if the U.S. adopted coronavirus social distancing measures one week earlier in March, the country could have saved nearly 36,000 additional lives from COVID-19. Researchers say its a sign of how quickly the virus can spread when no measures are in place.
On March 16, President Donald Trump announced guidelines from the White House coronavirus task force aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. He asked Americans to avoid discretionary travel, avoid gathering in large groups and encouraged schools to teach remotely.
Columbia researchers say that had such measures been enacted on March 8, the number of total deaths, as of May 3, could have dropped by nearly 36,000. If the restrictions had gone into effect March 1, the researchers projected that the number of deaths could be 54,000 less, as of May 3.
The team estimated that in New York City alone, the number of coronavirus deaths reported on May 3 could have dropped by nearly 15,000 to just 2,838. The researchers’ findings have yet to be peer-reviewed and were shared online to the preprint site medrxiv.
Mid Michigan is suffering through some historic flooding after the Edenville and Sanford dams failed after heavy rains. Lake Sanford has been drained into downtown Midland causing the evacuation of thousands. someone caught some video of one of the dams breaking.
Here?s another video which nicely summarizes the situation.
I live in Bay City which is on the Saginaw river through which all this water will eventually flow into Lake Huron. A part of the city called Essexville near the mouth of the river may see a rise of six feet above flood level when it is expected to crest on Friday.
Bay City has a River Walk trail with a side walk along the downtown river front. Today I took a bicycle ride to take a look at it. The water level was high (I?ve seen it higher). I saw some kids riding their bikes through…
We all know how much impact the quarantine and all the time that we have spent “locked down” has had on us. Days seem to melt together, and, on occasions, time just seems to slow down.
I came across the following thoughts from a friend of mine. Some of them are funny and some will make you sit back and think. Whatever the case…enjoy.
I hope they give us two weeks’ notice before sending us back out into the real world. I think we’ll all need the time to become ourselves again. And by “ourselves” I mean lose 10 pounds, cut our hair and get used to not drinking at 9:00 a.m.
Natural England recently published a blog outlining their decision to issue licences to take peregrine falcon chicks from the wild to be used in falconry. Taking a chick from their nest and natural habitat to be used in needless breeding programmes to support a hobby is deeply unethical, and this decision must be reversed.
Natural England try and justify this obvious violation of ethics by describing falconry as ‘an ancient tradition’, while it is in fact just archaic and outdated.
It is particularly outrageous that while Natural England recently revoked licences to release grey squirrels after rescue, they are now issuing licences to take animals from the wild to support a cruel hobby. It is shameful that Natural England prioritises supporting this ‘sport’ over the wellbeing of sentient beings.
Peregrine falcons are one of the few species who have seen a resurgence in their numbers in recent years, but this does not mean they should be exploited in this way. These animals still suffer persecution, and still need protections. We are concerned these licences being issued could open the door for further animals to be taken from the wild to benefit humans.
We appeal to Natural England to immediately reverse this decision, and withdraw these licences.
Support peregrine falcons by adding your name to this petition calling on Natural England to reverse this decision.
Superspreading events involving SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have been reported.
What is added by this report?
Following a 2.5-hour choir practice attended by 61 persons, including a symptomatic index patient, 32 confirmed and 20 probable secondary COVID-19 cases occurred (attack rate = 53.3% to 86.7%); three patients were hospitalized, and two died. Transmission was likely facilitated by close proximity (within 6 feet) during practice and augmented by the act of singing.
What are the implications for public health practice?
The potential for superspreader events underscores the importance of physical distancing, including avoiding gathering in large groups, to control spread of COVID-19. Enhancing community awareness can encourage symptomatic persons and contacts of ill persons to isolate or self-quarantine to prevent ongoing transmission.
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On March 17, 2020, a member of a Skagit County, Washington, choir informed Skagit County Public Health (SCPH) that several members of the 122-member choir had become ill. Three persons, two from Skagit County and one from another area, had test results positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Another 25 persons had compatible symptoms. SCPH obtained the choir’s member list and began an investigation on March 18. Among 61 persons who attended a March 10 choir practice at which one person was known to be symptomatic, 53 cases were identified, including 33 confirmed and 20 probable cases (secondary attack rates of 53.3% among confirmed cases and 86.7% among all cases). Three of the 53 persons who became ill were hospitalized (5.7%), and two died (3.7%). The 2.5-hour singing practice provided several opportunities for droplet and fomite transmission, including members sitting close to one another, sharing snacks, and stacking chairs at the end of the practice. The act of singing, itself, might have contributed to transmission through emission of aerosols, which is affected by loudness of vocalization (1). Certain persons, known as superemitters, who release more aerosol particles during speech than do their peers, might have contributed to this and previously reported COVID-19 superspreading events (2–5). These data demonstrate the high transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 and the possibility of superemitters contributing to broad transmission in certain unique activities and circumstances. It is recommended that persons avoid face-to-face contact with others, not gather in groups, avoid crowded places, maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet to reduce transmission, and wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
Investigation and Findings
The choir, which included 122 members, met for a 2.5-hour practice every Tuesday evening through March 10. On March 15, the choir director e-mailed the group members to inform them that on March 11 or 12 at least six members had developed fever and that two members had been tested for SARS-CoV-2 and were awaiting results. On March 16, test results for three members were positive for SARS-CoV-2 and were reported to two respective local health jurisdictions, without indication of a common source of exposure. On March 17, the choir director sent a second e-mail stating that 24 members reported that they had developed influenza-like symptoms since March 11, and at least one had received test results positive for SARS-CoV-2. The email emphasized the importance of social distancing and awareness of symptoms suggestive of COVID-19. These two emails led many members to self-isolate or quarantine before a delegated member of the choir notified SCPH on March 17.
All 122 members were interviewed by telephone either during initial investigation of the cluster (March 18–20; 115 members) or a follow-up interview (April 7–10; 117); most persons participated in both interviews. Interviews focused on attendance at practices on March 3 and March 10, as well as attendance at any other events with members during March, other potential exposures, and symptoms of COVID-19. SCPH used Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists case definitions to classify confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 (6). Persons who did not have symptoms at the initial interview were instructed to quarantine for 14 days from the last practice they had attended. The odds of becoming ill after attending each practice were computed to ascertain the likelihood of a point-source exposure event.
No choir member reported having had symptoms at the March 3 practice. One person at the March 10 practice had cold-like symptoms beginning March 7. This person, who had also attended the March 3 practice, had a positive laboratory result for SARS-CoV-2 by reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing.
In total, 78 members attended the March 3 practice, and 61 attended the March 10 practice (Table 1). Overall, 51 (65.4%) of the March 3 practice attendees became ill; all but one of these persons also attended the March 10 practice. Among 60 attendees at the March 10 practice (excluding the patient who became ill March 7, who also attended), 52 (86.7%) choir members subsequently became ill. Some members exclusively attended one practice; among 21 members who only attended March 3, one became ill and was not tested (4.8%), and among three members who only attended March 10, two became ill (66.7%), with one COVID-19 case being laboratory-confirmed.
Because illness onset for 49 (92.5%) patients began during March 11–15 (Figure), a point-source exposure event seemed likely. The median interval from the March 3 practice to symptom onset was 10 days (range = 4–19 days), and from the March 10 practice to symptom onset was 3 days (range = 1–12 days). The odds of becoming ill after the March 3 practice were 17.0 times higher for practice attendees than for those who did not attend (95% confidence interval [CI] = 5.5–52.8), and after the March 10 practice, the odds were 125.7 times greater (95% CI = 31.7–498.9). The clustering of symptom onsets, odds of becoming ill according to practice attendance, and known presence of a symptomatic contagious case at the March 10 practice strongly suggest that date as the more likely point-source exposure event. Therefore, that practice was the focus of the rest of the investigation. Probable cases were defined as persons who attended the March 10 practice and developed clinically compatible COVID-19 symptoms, as defined by Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (6). The choir member who was ill beginning March 7 was considered the index patient.
The March 10 choir rehearsal lasted from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. Several members arrived early to set up chairs in a large multipurpose room. Chairs were arranged in six rows of 20 chairs each, spaced 6–10 inches apart with a center aisle dividing left and right stages. Most choir members sat in their usual rehearsal seats. Sixty-one of the 122 members attended that evening, leaving some members sitting next to empty seats. Attendees practiced together for 40 minutes, then split into two smaller groups for an additional 50-minute practice, with one of the groups moving to a smaller room. At that time, members in the larger room moved to seats next to one another, and members in the smaller room sat next to one another on benches. Attendees then had a 15-minute break, during which cookies and oranges were available at the back of the large room, although many members reported not eating the snacks. The group then reconvened for a final 45-minute session in their original seats. At the end of practice, each member returned their own chair, and in the process congregated around the chair racks. Most attendees left the practice immediately after it concluded. No one reported physical contact between attendees. SCPH assembled a seating chart of the all-choir portion of the March 10 practice (not reported here because of concerns about patient privacy).
Among the 61 choir members who attended the March 10 practice, the median age was 69 years (range = 31–83 years); 84% were women. Median age of those who became ill was 69 years, and 85% of cases occurred in women. Excluding the laboratory-confirmed index patient, 52 (86.7%) of 60 attendees became ill; 32 (61.5%) of these cases were confirmed by RT-PCR testing and 20 (38.5%) persons were considered to have probable infections. These figures correspond to secondary attack rates of 53.3% and 86.7% among confirmed and all cases, respectively. Attendees developed symptoms 1 to 12 days after the practice (median = 3 days). The first SARS-CoV-2 test was performed on March 13. The last person was tested on March 26.
Three of the 53 patients were hospitalized (5.7%), including two who died (3.8%). The mean interval from illness onset to hospitalization was 12 days. The intervals from onset to death were 14 and 15 days for the two patients who died.
SCPH collected information about patient signs and symptoms from patient interviews and hospital records (Table 2). Among persons with confirmed infections, the most common signs and symptoms reported at illness onset and at any time during the course of illness were cough (54.5% and 90.9%, respectively), fever (45.5%, 75.8%), myalgia (27.3%, 75.0%), and headache (21.2%, 60.6%). Several patients later developed gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea (18.8%), nausea (9.4%), and abdominal cramps or pain (6.3%). One person experienced only loss of smell and taste. The most severe complications reported were viral pneumonia (18.2%) and severe hypoxemic respiratory failure (9.1%).
Among the recognized risk factors for severe illness, the most common was age, with 75.5% of patients aged ≥65 years. Most patients (67.9%) did not report any underlying medical conditions, 9.4% had one underlying medical condition, and 22.6% had two or more underlying medical conditions. All three hospitalized patients had two or more underlying medical conditions.
Public Health Response
SCPH provided March 10 practice attendees with isolation and quarantine instructions by telephone, email, and postal mail. Contacts of patients were traced and notified of isolation and quarantine guidelines. At initial contact, 15 attendees were quarantined, five of whom developed symptoms during quarantine and notified SCPH.
Before detection of this cluster on March 17, Skagit County had reported seven confirmed COVID-19 cases (5.4 cases per 100,000 population). At the time, SCPH informed residents that likely more community transmission had occurred than indicated by the low case counts.* On March 21, SCPH issued a press release to describe the outbreak and raise awareness about community transmission.† The press release emphasized the highly contagious nature of COVID-19 and the importance of following social distancing guidelines to control the spread of the virus.
Multiple reports have documented events involving superspreading of COVID-19 (2–5); however, few have documented a community-based point-source exposure (5). This cluster of 52 secondary cases of COVID-19 presents a unique opportunity for understanding SARS-CoV-2 transmission following a likely point-source exposure event. Persons infected with SARS-CoV-2 are most infectious from 2 days before through 7 days after symptom onset (7). The index patient developed symptoms on March 7, which could have placed the patient within this infectious period during the March 10 practice. Choir members who developed symptoms on March 11 (three) and March 12 (seven) attended both the March 3 and March 10 practices and thus could have been infected earlier and might have been infectious in the 2 days preceding symptom onset (i.e., as early as March 9). The attack rate in this group (53.3% and 86.7% among confirmed cases and all cases, respectively) was higher than that seen in other clusters, and the March 10 practice could be considered a superspreading event (3,4). The median incubation period of COVID-19 is estimated to be 5.1 days (8). The median interval from exposure during the March 10 practice to onset of illness was 3 days, indicating a more rapid onset.
Choir practice attendees had multiple opportunities for droplet transmission from close contact or fomite transmission (9), and the act of singing itself might have contributed to SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Aerosol emission during speech has been correlated with loudness of vocalization, and certain persons, who release an order of magnitude more particles than their peers, have been referred to as superemitters and have been hypothesized to contribute to superspeading events (1). Members had an intense and prolonged exposure, singing while sitting 6–10 inches from one another, possibly emitting aerosols.
The findings in this report are subject to at least two limitations. First, the seating chart was not reported because of concerns about patient privacy. However, with attack rates of 53.3% and 86.7% among confirmed and all cases, respectively, and one hour of the practice occurring outside of the seating arrangement, the seating chart does not add substantive additional information. Second, the 19 choir members classified as having probable cases did not seek testing to confirm their illness. One person classified as having probable COVID-19 did seek testing 10 days after symptom onset and received a negative test result. It is possible that persons designated as having probable cases had another illness.
This outbreak of COVID-19 with a high secondary attack rate indicates that SARS-CoV-2 might be highly transmissible in certain settings, including group singing events. This underscores the importance of physical distancing, including maintaining at least 6 feet between persons, avoiding group gatherings and crowded places, and wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain during this pandemic. The choir mitigated further spread by quickly communicating to its members and notifying SCPH of a cluster of cases on March 18. When first contacted by SCPH during March 18–20, nearly all persons who attended the practice reported they were already self-isolating or quarantining. Current CDC recommendations, including maintaining physical distancing of at least 6 feet and wearing cloth face coverings if this is not feasible, washing hands often, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home when ill, and frequently cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces remain critical to reducing transmission. Additional information is available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html.
Patients described in this report; health care personnel who cared for them; Skagit County Public Health staff members and leaders, particularly the Communicable Disease investigators; Washington State Department of Health.
1Skagit County Public Health, Mount Vernon, Washington.
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TABLE 1. Number of choir members with and without COVID-19–compatible symptoms (N = 122)* and members’ choir practice attendance† — Skagit County, Washington, March 3 and 10, 2020
Attendance No. (row %) March 3 practice March 10 practice Total Symptomatic Asymptomatic Total Symptomatic Asymptomatic Attended 78 51 (65.4) 27 (34.6) 61 53§ (86.9) 8 (13.1) Did not attend 40 4 (10.0) 36 (90.0) 61 3 (4.9) 58 (95.1) Attendance information missing 4 1 (25.0) 3 (75.0) 0 0 (—) 0 (—) Attended only one practice 21 1 (4.8) 20 (95.2) 3 2 (66.7) 1 (33.3)
Abbreviation: COVID-19 = coronavirus disease 2019. * No choir members were symptomatic at the March 3 practice. † Thirty-seven choir members attended neither practice; two developed symptoms, and 35 remained asymptomatic. § Includes index patient; if the index patient excluded, 52 secondary cases occurred among the other 60 attendees (attack rate = 86.7%).
FIGURE. Confirmed* and probable† cases of COVID-19 associated with two choir practices, by date of symptom onset (N = 53) — Skagit County, Washington, March 2020
Abbreviation: COVID-19 = coronavirus disease 19. * Including the index patient.
Suggested citation for this article: Hamner L, Dubbel P, Capron I, et al. High SARS-CoV-2 Attack Rate Following Exposure at a Choir Practice — Skagit County, Washington, March 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:606–610. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6919e6.
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A priest from Michigan is garnering widespread attention online this week for a unique way he incorporated social distancing guidelines into his services at his parish during Holy Week last month.
In the photos, which were first shared by the St. Ambrose Parish in Grosse Pointe Park last month and have gone viral on Twitter in recent days, the priest, Father Tim Pelc, could be seen donning gloves, a mask and a squirt gun containing holy water.
The church wrote in the April 12 post: “Adapting to the need for social distancing, St. Ambrose continued it’s tradition of Blessing of Easter Food Baskets, drive-thru style. Yes, that’s Fr. Tim using a squirt gun full of Holy Water!”
In an interview with Today published on Sunday, Pelc said he came up with the idea and decided to go through with it after checking first with a doctor to make sure it was in line with social guidelines advised by health experts and government officials to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“You can’t double dip into the holy water container,” he told the outlet. “I thought, what could I do that would keep the quarantine restrictions going and give kids the experience of Easter?”
“We didn’t have a lot of notice on it. At noon, the Saturday before Easter, I went out there and there was a line of cars waiting,” Pelc added.
The church’s initial post detailing the effort by Pelc has racked up several hundred shares and likes over the past few weeks. However, a tweet talking about Pelc’s “social distance blessings” has garnered over half a million likes and more than 125,000 retweets in just two days. The photos also picked up traction in a viral photoshop battle on Reddit not long after.https://d-6252475892314059361.ampproject.net/2005151837000/frame.html
Larry A. Peplin, the photographer who captured the photos, told The Hill on Sunday that he has been working as commercial photographer in the Detroit-area for decades and said he has “never seen anything like this happen to any of my photos.”
“Having covered many thousands of imaging assignments including six presidents and now nearing retirement, this is stunning,” he continued. “I’m quite aware that these things happen, and memes get created then passed around the world, but why did it take five weeks for it to take off?”
“I understand now why it’s called ‘going viral,’ and yes, I’m taking that verbal cue from COVID-19,” he added.
Shark fins are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, including China. But because sharks are endangered thanks to human behavior, we cannot afford to kill any more of them. Yet, people are still trafficking in shark fins. In fact, in April and May of 2020, officials in Hong Kong seized 26 tons of shark fins from over 38,500 endangered sharks in two different cases. Luckily, they have a suspect in custody for one of the seizures. But still no word on the other seizure or any official charges on the first suspect.
It’s critical we keep the pressure on to make sure they hold everyone involved with this massive slaughter accountable. Sign now!
The main way sharks are consumed is in a dish called shark fin soup. That means traffickers don’t even care about the rest of the shark’s body. In fact, they often slice off a shark’s fin and toss it back to the ocean to drown and die a slow and painful death. Fins from over 73 million sharks are used in this “delicacy” every single year.
The seized shark fins in Hong Kong were largely from thresher and silky sharks, both of which are endangered. Sharks are predators, playing a crucial role in maintaining sea biodiversity. Losing an entire predatory species would have dire consequences for our planet’s ecosystem. That’s why it’s so tragic to learn of 38,500 ruthlessly slaughtered sharks.
The good news is that this particular crime carries a fine of $10 million and imprisonment for 10 years. We need to demand anyone involved in this horrible act gets that punishment. Please sign on to demand justice for all these poor sharks!moreSHARE6.5KTWEETEMAILEMBED
People love to live by the water. For centuries, cities like New York, Miami, Honolulu and San Francisco have attracted residents and tourists from around the world. In fact, almost half of the U.S. population lives in counties on the coast, and that percentage is growing in footprint, density, number and population, reshaping and hardening coastlines in the process.
Coasts also provide habitat for great numbers of plants and animals and are typically biodiversity hotspots. But all this coastal development is reducing the amazing biodiversity along our shorelines.
Development has also reduced our coasts’ natural ability to resist and recover from natural disasters and has removed habitat that provides shelter for wildlife and ecosystem services for humans. Traditional coastal defenses like sea walls and levees are widely used to protect communities, but these artificial coastal barriers can lead to significant erosion or unwanted sediment deposition and negatively impact water quality. They are also time-consuming to build and cost billions to construct, maintain and repair.
Increasingly, engineers and planners are starting to pay more attention to the potential of “Nature and Nature-Based Features” (NNBFs) as environmentally friendly solutions—like mangrove forests, beach dunes, coral reefs and wetlands—that fulfill the same roles as an important weapon in the fight against coastal storms and flooding.
D. Rex Miller
NNBFs include natural defenses and human-built features that mimic them. Using NNBFs in coastal development decisions can therefore mean constructing new ones or protecting existing natural ones. NNBFs are often cheaper and require less maintenance and management. They can also make communities more resilient to climate change by adapting to changes in the environment. They are part of the larger concept of “green infrastructure,” or attempting to harness nature’s resilience to solve human problems. And its not all-or-nothing – NNBFs can complement artificial coastal infrastructure.
NNBFs like wetlands are essential to protect coasts from storm surges because they can store and slow the release of floodwaters, reducing erosion and damage to buildings. One study found that salt marshes can reduce wave height by an average of 72%. Coral reefs can serve as a barrier and reduce wave height by an average of 70%. These reefs protect coastal cities near them such as Honolulu and Miami, saving lives and preventing monetary damage.
Megan Joyce/Defenders of Wildlife
When Superstorm Sandy slammed the Northeast in 2012, homes on beaches fairly near to sand dunes were protected by these natural buffers, which can blunt the force of waves and wind. In many cases, homes on beach areas where dunes had been removed (often to improve ocean views) were completely destroyed by Sandy. Removing many of the mangroves that lined Biscayne Bay in South Florida may have helped spur economic development. However, it also removed another natural barrier against storm surge. This increased vulnerability of homes and businesses to the hurricanes that frequently hit Miami. Coastal communities in Indonesia hit by the devastating 2004 tsunami that had removed their mangrove forests suffered more damage and more lost lives than areas where mangroves had been allowed to remain. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently working on a number of projects that look at features like mangroves and their ability to protect coasts.
Damage from Hurricane Sandy at Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, homes on the Jersey Shore
Bringing Wildlife Back
People are not the only ones who can benefit from NNBF. Restoring or protecting habitat can bring back habitat for wildlife and provide space for wildlife to live alongside coastal human communities. This includes imperiled species.
For example, coastal dunes restoration can improve habitat for threatened species like the piping plover, red knot and seabeach amaranth. Restoring mangroves can help protect species like the wood stork and American alligator, and the endangered hawksbill turtle. Protecting coral reefs can help threatened elkhorn and boulder star corals, and ensure habitat remains for the hawksbill sea turtle. People and wildlife can both have space.
NNBFs can also improve water quality. Much of the rainwater and flood water that goes on vegetation or sand will sink into the ground where it is cleaned. Healthy coral reefs and healthy mangroves help improve marine waters. And by avoiding artificial coastal defenses, polluted runoff can be avoided. Improving water quality can help marine imperiled species. For example, manatees in Florida have been devastated by red tide in recent years. Similarly, water quality issues can stress or kill threatened corals that need clear water for photosynthesis. Even species far offshore, like orca, can be hurt by contaminated runoff from development. Creating habitat for wildlife can even have additional economic benefits beyond coastal protection. It can offer opportunities for economic activity like kayaking, fishing and birding.
Andrew S. Wright/USFWS
The Future of NNBF
In recent years, the U.S. Congress has become interested in the potential of NNBFs, instructing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to incorporate NNBFs into coastal defense projects where appropriate. The Corps’ research and development center has taken a leading role in researching NNBFs. Through its engineering with nature initiative, it has developed numerous projects exploring NNBFs’ potential. However, the regional offices have made less progress in taking advantage of NNBFs in their coastal defense projects. NNBFs should be a priority for the Corps and coastal communities around the country – and the world.
Advocating for NNBFs is part of Defenders of Wildlife’s mission to protect habitat and we believe they are a strong tool for addressing the overall biodiversity crisis faced by the planet.
Andrew works on wildlife conservation policy at the Center for Conservation Innovation, where he researches and analyzes conservation governance strategies and emerging policy issues, and works with other CCI members to develop innovative approaches to habitat and species protection.
Celiac disease is an immune disorder that triggers severe gut reactions, including diarrhea and bloating, to foods containing gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Now new research has linked an increase risk for celiac disease in young people to toxic chemicals commonly found in pesticides, nonstick cookware and fast food packaging, and fire retardants, among other sources.
Researchers analyzed levels of toxic chemicals in the blood of 30 children and young adults, ages 3 to 21, who were newly diagnosed with celiac disease at NYU Langone Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital. Test results were compared with those from 60 other young people of similar age, gender, and race.
The results of the scientific study revealed that children and young adults with high blood levels of pesticides, including high levels of pesticide-related chemicals called dichlorodiphenyldichlorethylenes (DDEs), were twice as likely to be newly diagnosed…
Stray cats are a common sight on many city streets, and people either stop and try to pet them, or ignore them altogether. To differentiate, stray cats are socialized to people, while feral cats are more likely the offspring of strays, are not socialized to people, and have reverted to a wild state. Catching feral cats is thus important to reduce health risks and control their population.
One animal champion endured some pain while out catching feral cats, but the cat soon calmed down and seemingly fell in love with its rescuer!
The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) defines a feral cat as “any cat who is too poorly socialized to be handled … and who cannot be placed into a typical pet home.”
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals estimates that there are between 60 million and 100 million feral cats in the U.S.
The Dodo | Facebook
These cats often form colonies and live in areas where shelter and food can be found, such as vacant lots and old cars. They eat from trash cans and face infection, disease, and suffer extremes in treatment and weather. Feral cats are known to decimate bird populations and pose health risks, including flea infestations.
They also go through endless cycle of breeding, since females can become pregnant as young as 16 weeks of age and produce two to three litters a year. In seven years, a single female cat and her kittens can create 420,000 more cats.
The Dodo | Facebook
Catching feral cats as part of neutering programs help bring down the population and reduce the challenges that they bring.
According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, neutering programs entail that stray and feral cats are “humanely trapped, examined, vaccinated, and surgically sterilized by veterinarians.”
But catching feral cats is certainly not easy. Hissing and biting comes with the territory, but for cats that may still be in that borderline between stray and feral, they may be able to appreciate human care.
The Dodo | Facebook
One animal advocate certainly found out the hard way. On a routine mission of catching feral cats, he chances upon a cat with its head trapped in can, most likely in an attempt to get the last morsel of food in the container. Carefully carrying the cat back to his car, he gently dislodges the can, and is immediately faced with an angry and terrified cat.
Wary about bringing the feral cat back into a rescue center, he talks to the cat and gives it a chance – go back to where it came from, or maybe have food and warmth in a safe environment. Fortunately, the cat decided that it was time to be saved!
Photo by The Dodo/YouTube
After some food and gentle loving care, the cat still lets out a few hisses every now and then, but grows more comfortable around human company.
The cat soon accepts the hand of its rescuer and shows some love! Catching feral cats may be risky, but certainly has its rewards. See the feral cat transform into a tranquil pet in the video below:
Representative Image via Adobe Stock18692 Signatures Collected
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Puppy mills are factory-like hell holes where mother dogs are forced to breed over and over in filthy, tiny cages until they are “spent.” Sick, starving and even pregnant dogs suffer without medical care in overcrowded, feces-infested and urine-soaked cages, shivering in freezing cold temperatures during the winter and suffering in agonizing heat during the summer, according to inspection reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The USDA is tasked with protecting animals in puppy mills, roadside zoos and animal labs, but the agency’s shocking leniency enables these abusive operations to get away with vile animal cruelty. After withholding access to animal welfare records, their 2019 Impact Report claimed that 99 percent of licensed facilities were in “substantial compliance” with animal welfare laws without defining what exactly that term means.
Violations of the Animal Welfare Act are common, as evidenced by the U.S. Humane Society’s annual “Horrible Hundred” report on puppy mills, but details reflecting these widespread abusive operations are conspicuously absent from the report.
The USDA has the power to fine violators, revoke their licenses, and pursue criminal charges, but it chooses to allow many facilities to continue operating even after multiple uncorrected violations. Injured and sick dogs are not properly cared for, leading to a rise in disease outbreaks. By obscuring inspection records, adopting increasingly relaxed animal welfare policies, and barely enforcing established animal protections, the USDA is failing to protect puppies from being abused for profit. It’s time to fight back.
New bipartisan legislation could end barbaric wire cages and inadequate veterinary care for puppies throughout the United States. The Puppy Protection Act aims to improve the lives of thousands of dogs forced to live in filthy, crowded conditions for the benefit of cruel, profit-driven breeders.
Sign this petition urging the U.S. Congress to pass the Puppy Protection Act, and call to end the puppy mill system once and for all.
Excerpts from Keweenaw Bay [American] Indian Community letter: “On April 30, 2018, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice of proposed rule that would drastically reduce the types of scientific studies that can be used to inform EPA regulations protecting public health under the guise of improving transparency.
On August 13, 2018, the National Tribal Air Association (NTAA) submitted comments opposing the proposed rule, explaining, among other things, that the rule would undermine EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment.
The NTAA explained that the proposed rule was vague, purported to addresss a non-existent and unsubstantiated problems, and would result in EPA failing to rely on the best available science in…
For those who may not be aware, there is a species of bee known as the Osmia calaminthae. This bee is as you’d expect a bit blue in color unlike your average bee and for a while now has been seemingly gone from anyone’s view.
This kind of bee is so rare to spot that many in the scientific world thought it was gone for good, however, in recent times they’ve popped back up. After being so unsure for a long period about whether or not these interesting little creatures still existed, spotting one is a serious feat. According to Weather.com the plant this kind of bee needs to survive is very rare in Florida as well which means it’s hard for this kind of bee to get by.
This species had for the longest only been recorded in four locations of about a 16 square mile area in Wales Ridge and it seems since Spring a Florida Museum of Natural History has gotten lucky in ‘rediscovering’ these little guys. While it might not sound like much to the average person, this find is remarkable. These been were thought to be gone for good and to begin with we did not know much about them. Now that we know they are still out there we have so much to learn.
Chase Kimmel a postdoctoral researcher told Florida Museum as follows about this find:
“I was open to the possibility that we may not find the bee at all so that first moment when we spotted it in the field was really exciting,”
“We’re trying to fill in a lot of gaps that were not previously known,”
“It shows how little we know about the insect community and how there’s a lot of neat discoveries that can still occur.”
These researchers hope to study this specific kind of bee and get a better understanding of how it interacts with other insects, forages, and things of that nature. Lots of questions are being brought forth and perhaps in time, we will have our answers.
Weather.com wrote as follows about this marvelous find:
On March 9, Kimmel and a volunteer went to put out traps to see if they could find the bees. That’s when “we saw a blue bee bopping its head,” Kimmel said. They caught it and examined it and saw that it met all the qualifications for the ultra-rare blue calamintha bee.
Currently the bee does not have any protection status. It is considered a “species of greatest conservation need,” but has neither state nor federal protection. The main host plant that the bee utilizes, Calamintha ashei, is a state threatened species. In 2015, there was a petition to have the bee included, but it still lacks the status as there is not enough known about it for it to qualify for the endangered species list.
According to Kimmel, it is too early to know if the bee will be registered on the endangered species list, because more research needs to be done. There’s still much to learn about the blue calamintha bee. Not much is known about the bee’s biology. Does it prefer sun or shade? Such information is what Kimmel’s team will be looking into.
Kimmel added that “in an ideal world, it would be great to look at how management choices impact the plant and the population of this bee.” For example, the Florida Scrub Jays are an endangered species, and as such, conservationists and governments have tried to protect them, which includes managing wildlife to enable them to flourish. However, these management methods, which includes burning vegetation including the flowers that support the blue calamintha bees, could be damaging to the bee population, Kimmel explained. “Is the management for that bird the same as the management for this bee?” he poses. Other questions include how quickly does a bee return to an area that’s been burned, and how quickly does a plant regenerate to have the blossoms to support that bee.
The ongoing research is funded by a Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission grant through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This research falls under the grant’s qualifications to conserve important wildlife habitat and/or preventing species extinctions. “There was a lack of scientific information regarding the occurrence and life history of the bee[, and more] information was needed to make an informed determination regarding the classification status for this species under the Endangered Species Act,” according to a spokesperson at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
What do you think about this find? I for one think it is monumental for a number of reasons. It’s always a huge feat when we find something that was previously thought to be gone forever.
Show captionHen harriers are among the falcons being targeted. Photograph: AlamyRSPB
Charity says lockdown has been seen as green light to target birds in belief there is less chance of getting caught
The RSPB has been “overrun” with reports of birds of prey being illegally killed since lockdown began.
Police have been called out to investigate multiple cases of raptors being shot, trapped or suspected of having been poisoned, with the charity saying most incidents were on or close to sporting estates managed for game bird shooting.
The RSPB has logged at least 56 potential offences – more than one a day on average – since lockdown began on 23 March, including 15 confirmed shot birds of prey and 24 birds submitted for further postmortem analysis after suspected illegal killing.
Birds targeted in the last six weeks include hen harriers, peregrine falcons, red kites, goshawks, buzzards and a barn owl.
On 29 March, a buzzard was found with its wing fractured by gunshot at Shipton, near York. The buzzard was rehabilitated by a local wildlife expert and recovered. Over the Easter weekend, a red kite was found shot dead near Leeds with 12 shotgun pellets in its body.
In Scotland, the police are investigating several raptor persecution cases and reports of the use of illegal traps on grouse moors.
Mark Thomas, head of UK investigations for the RSPB, said: “Since lockdown began, the RSPB has been overrun with reports of birds of prey being targeted. It is clear that criminals on some sporting estates, both in the uplands and lowlands, have used the wider closure of the countryside as an opportunity to ramp up their efforts to kill birds of prey.
“Spring is the time when birds of prey are most visible and therefore vulnerable, as they put on courtship displays, build nests and find food ready to breed. The criminal actions are targeted and malicious in nature, taking out birds before they have the opportunity to breed, often in areas where they have previously faced persecution.”
“Lockdown has been seen as a green light by those involved in raptor persecution offences to continue committing crimes, presumably in the belief that there are fewer people around to catch them doing so,” he said. “I remain grateful to everyone involved in investigating these crimes, and thankfully in the vast majority of the cases I am aware of, it looks like some really good lines of inquiry are taking place which should lead to arrests and interviews.”
Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said: “Any confirmed reports of raptor persecution are cause for concern. The incidents specified near Leeds and York … [by the RSPB] are clearly not on grouse moors, while reports we have from our members in the uplands have suggested that many birds of prey are in fact benefiting from the lockdown restrictions and the subsequent reduction in disturbance from members of the public. Estates across the country have reported a number of raptors including peregrine, merlin and hen harriers nesting and living on those landscapes.
“We condemn any illegal activity and Moorland Association members have signed up to a cross-sector zero tolerance approach to wildlife crime.”
Dr Ruth Tingay of Raptor Persecution UK and co-founder of Wild Justice, said: “The reported surge really shouldn’t come as any surprise. Birds of prey have been ruthlessly targeted on many game-shooting estates for decades; lockdown simply provides the criminals with more opportunity to pursue their targets with little fear of detection or consequence.
“The big question remains the same – lockdown or not: when will this government acknowledge the scale and extent of the problem and hold these shooting estates to account? Wilful blindness can no longer be tolerated.”
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“He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.” - Blaise Pascal. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" – George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. We live in a “post-truth” world. According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Going beyond the MSM idealogical opinion/bias and their low information tabloid reality show news with a distractional superficial focus on entertainment, sensationalism, emotionalism and activist reporting – this blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." – George Orwell “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Soren Kierkegaard