Monday, November 30, 2020
Hunger in U.S., which is disproportionately rural, at highest point since 1998, first year comparable data available
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will host a free webinar at 1 p.m. ET Wednesday, Dec. 2, about its newest farm income and financial forecasts. You can view the reports here after they are released.
During the hour-long webinar, economist Carrie Litkowski of USDA's Economic Research Service will go over the newest figures, which cover a broad range of data and predictions concerning the farm economy for 2020. The forecast is updated three times a year, usually in February, August and November.
Click here for more information about the webinar or to register.
States can improve rural broadband disparity by fixing FCC maps like Georgia did, says report from governors' group
Bureau of Land Management releases plan to reduce Western sagebrush wildfires, protect sage grouse habitat
"Officials on Friday released an overarching plan for removing or changing vegetation over a huge swath of the U.S. West to stop devastating wildfires on land used for cattle ranching, recreation and habitat for imperiled sage grouse," reports Keith Ridler of The Associated Press. "The plan released by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management aims to limit wildfires in a 350,000-square-mile area of mainly sagebrush habitat that includes parts of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada and Utah."
Friday, November 27, 2020
Blazing the 12,000-mile American Perimeter Trail has been a risky proposition for a hiker from Oregon
|McKendrick (Photo by Ryan Brennecke, Bend Bulletin)|
"He had guns pulled on him twice in Texas. A tree fell on him in Michigan while he was sleeping in a hammock. In North Dakota, driving snowstorms and a severe illness finally brought Rue McKendrick’s 15-month long trek around the United States to an end," at least for the time being, reports Mark Morical of The Bulletin in Bend, Oregon.
APT coordinator Leilah Grace told Morical that the goal of the APT is “a protected corridor of land and natural resources available for recreational use roughly tracing the continental United States.”The trail uses several existing trails, such as the Pacific Crest Trail and the Arizona Trail, and McKenrick used much of them, but in Texas there is little public land, and "Twice he had to talk his way out of confrontations as folks pulled guns on him for trespassing on their property."
In March, when McKenrick crossed the Mississippi River into Natchez, "He found it odd that the town was completely empty. Busy hiking and with little access to news, he had not heard about the pandemic. . . . The Appalachian Trail was closed due to the pandemic, so McKenrick followed his own route on the west side of the mountain range. . . . After slogging his way across Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, he eventually turned west into Ohio.
“Before I crossed into Michigan I had a tree fall on me and I broke a toe,” he said. “I was asleep in a hammock when it happened. It was a bad storm and the tree knocked me clean out. It hit me in the head and I also separated my shoulder.” He "nursed himself back to health in a hotel for four or five days," but "by the time he reached Duluth, Minnesota, he was extremely sick with a stomach ailment," Morical writes. :He went to a hospital where he got an IV and some medications. He headed back out yet again but as he got closer to Montana, the snow, the cold and his illness became too much."
“It was more about the people before covid hit,” McKenrick told Morical. “After that it changed dramatically. I don’t look at backpacking as much as a sport as I do an art. When I was traveling through the South and Southeast before covid, I was running into all these microcultures, which were just fascinating. America is a lot more diverse culturally. It’s something that you can see when you’re traveling at the speed of walking. It’s easier to see these things and to meet these people.”
Thursday, November 26, 2020
Emotional battle over wild horses on federal lands in the West continues as their numbers double every four years
|Wild horses in the Nevada desert (Photographs by Melissa Farlow for The Washington Post)|
The saga of wild horses and burros on federal land in the West has rarely been told as well as it was recently for The Washington Post by reporter Britta Lokting and photographer Melissa Farlow. Several real-life examples are wrapped around this description of the problem:
|A mare named Shoshone, in South Dakota|
"There are over 100,000 wild horses and burros on 26.9 million acres of Bureau of Land Management land, according to the agency. This doesn’t include mustangs on Native American reservations, national parks, several U.S. Forest Service territories and lands managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The BLM has failed to keep populations at what it considers a sustainable level. To deal with the so-called excess horses, the agency rounds them up, usually using helicopters, puts them in short-term holding pens, tries to adopt them out, and then sends the unwanted ones — currently over 47,000 — to private, grassy pastures in the Midwest.
|A herd of wild horses on the move in the Nevada desert|
"It’s illegal for the bureau to euthanize healthy horses, though it euthanizes ones that have such ailments as blindness or club feet. Officials also can’t ship horses to slaughter or sell them to someone who intends to ship them to slaughter. (Though widely taboo, eating horsemeat is technically legal federally; some consider it a cheap source of protein.) The agency is at a standstill, partly because options like euthanasia or slaughter face intense backlash. . . . The BLM has been interested in spaying wild mares for at least a decade, but various approaches have failed or been blocked by wild-horse activists in court. Two attempts in recent years were met with such public outcry that the agency’s university research partners backed out of studies."
Clyburn promotes Fudge for USDA to get it focused on hunger; Heitkamp and Vilsack are more traditional options
|Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio|
"Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking Black member of Congress and perhaps Mr. Biden’s most important supporter in the Democratic primary, is making an all-out case for Rep. Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio, an African-American Democrat from Ohio," Martin writes.
Corps denies permit for huge mine in Bristol Bay watershed after GOP division, surreptitious recordings of executives
|New York Times map|
Pebble Limited Partnership, said it would appeal. the U.S. subsidiary of Canadian mining firm Northern Dynasty Minerals said it was dismayed because it had revised its plan in recent months to mitigate issues raised by environmentalists. But this time the enviros had unusual allies, and the developers talked too much, dooming their case.
The project "divided Republicans and Alaska politicians normally in favor of expanding domestic mineral production," Politico notes. "President Donald Trump faced a public pressure campaign from Republicans, including mega-donor Andy Sabin, Bass Pro Shops CEO Johnny Morris, Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., to block the project."
Then, secret recordings of Pebble's CEO at the time revealed him "boasting about how he would influence Alaskan politicians," prompting Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan to "affirm their outright opposition to the projection after sending mixed signals up until that point," Politico reports.
In the recording, Pebble executives also "suggested that they were planning for a much larger mine, and one that would operate far longer, than what had been proposed to the Corps," The New York Times reports. "The recordings were obtained by an environmental advocacy group, with two members who were posing as potential investors in the project meeting by video with two project executives. The executives described how the mine could operate for 160 years or more beyond the proposed 20 years, and how its output could double after the first two decades."
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Nov. 29 is Subscribe Sunday, a media campaign encouraging Americans to subscribe to their local paper
|Unbranded gif is free for anyone to use|
Here's a cornucopia of Thanksgiving-related stories:
Poynter Institute writers list some of what they're thankful for in journalism this year. Read more here.
Climate change is threatening the cranberry industry. Read more here.
Regenerative turkey production, which helps soil health, is increasingly popular. Read more here.
For many Native Americans, especially during the pandemic, Thanksgiving can be a complicated holiday. Read more here.
Food banks have seen higher demand than usual before Thanksgiving. Read more here.
Quick hits: Purude Pharma pleads guilty to charges in opioid crisis; rural real estate searches up 235% from last October
Online searches for rural homes increased 235% from October 2019 to October 2020, according to a new report by real estate company Redfin. Read more here.
Purdue Pharma pleads guilty in its role in the opioid crisis as part of a deal with the Justice Department. Read more here.
President Trump's appointee to lead the Voice of America acted unconstitutionally in investigating what he claimed was bias against Trump by his own journalists, a federal judge ruled. Read more here.
A federal appeals court upheld a 2018 jury verdict of damages to North Carolina plaintiffs who said the noise and smell of Smithfield Foods' hog operations were unbearable. Read more here.
Vulture suggests a list of things to read, watch and listen to instead of Hillbilly Elegy. Read more here.
Rural covid-19 roundup: Pandemic brain drain on nurses threatens rural health care; N.D. gives up contact tracing
Health-care workers to Americans: 'We didn't go to nursing school to be martyrs'. Read more here.
Artificial-intelligence tool can smell a conspiracy, but it can be gamed, which shows the lasting value of good journalism
As social media become more popular and more siloed, misinformation (all false info) and disinformation (false info spread with the intent to mislead) become an increasing threat. A new artificial-intelligence tool shows promise in weeding out conspiracy theories, but its developer notes that it can be gamed. The bottom line? There's still no substitute for a reporter with a good nose.
A culture analytics group at the University of California has developed an A.I. tool that determines when social-media conversations have the hallmarks of conspiracy theories. "We have applied these methods successfully to the study of Pizzagate, the COVID-19 pandemic and anti-vaccination movements. We’re currently using these methods to study QAnon," Timothy Tangherlini, who co-leads the group, writes for The Conversation. He acknowledges that, if the tool were to be widely used, conspiracy theorists familiar with it might deliberately design their posts to stay off its radar.
However, social-media platforms would have to be willing to employ such a tool in the first place, and it's not clear that they would. Such platforms have long struggled with how much to tamp down on misinformation, but at Facebook, for example, "the company’s aspirations of improving the world are often at odds with its desire for dominance," Kevin Roose, Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel report for The New York Times.
Facebook changed the site's news-feed algorithm just after the election to boost the visibility of more trustworthy news outlets. Employees hoped that burying more extreme partisan sites such as Breitbart or Occupy Democrats for a few days would slow the spread of false and misleading claims that the election had been rigged.
Some employees lobbied for the news algorithm to always be configured that way, but others feared that playing down partisan sources "could hurt Facebook’s growth, or provoke a political backlash that leads to painful regulation," the Times reports.
In any case, Facebook's efforts were no match for the disinformation pushed by the Trump campaign and its surrogates: President Trump's "false claims of voter fraud have been picked up by many state and local Republican officials across the country, and polls now show that more than two-thirds of GOP voters believe the 2020 election was neither free nor fair," Matt Vasilogambros reports for Stateline.
Regardless of how well the A.I. tool works out, journalists still have their work cut out for them.
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Rural Midwest banker survey finds record-low loan volume, falling economic confidence; predicts low holiday retail sales
|Creighton University chart compares current month to last month and year ago; click here to download the full report.|
The November Creighton University survey of rural bankers in 10 Midwest states where agriculture and energy are critical to the economy showed declining economic confidence and dim predictions for holiday retail sales. The index is a survey of bankers in about 200 rural communities with an average population of 1,300 in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
- Nearly 55% of bankers think holiday sales will be lower than last year's, by about 3.1%.
- For the first time since 2013, the survey recorded above-growth-neutral readings in farmland prices for consecutive months.
- New hiring fell slightly from October, but stayed just above growth-neutral.
- Non-farm employment levels for the Rural Mainstreet economy are down by 132,000 non-seasonally adjusted jobs, or 3.2%, compared to pre-pandemic levels.
New rural coronavirus infections set record for ninth straight week; rural covid-19 deaths at high for third week in a row
|Daily Yonder map; click the image to enlarge it or click here for the interactive version.|
Click here for more data and insights from the Yonder, including an interactive map with the latest county-level data.
USDA loosens qualifications for farmers to get federal aid; Republican Sen. Grassley says the changes invite fraud
On Wednesday, the Farm Service Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture "restored the previous definitions of 'active personal management,' 'significant contribution,' and 'related phrasing' in a rule on farm-program subsidy eligibility and payment limitations," Jerry Hagstrom reports for DTN/The Progressive Farmer.
FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce said the rules were meant to help family farms, but critics say the move invites fraud. One was Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a hog farmer, chair of the Senate Finance Committee and former chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
"As both a family farmer and senator, I've worked with the USDA over the years in good faith to ensure these programs are used for their intended purposes and aren't being taken advantage of," Grassley said. "It's a shame that USDA is backtracking after just finalizing a fair rule for this program a couple of months ago."
Grassley said that is "particularly concerning" after the Government Accountability Office, the auditing arm of Congress, "just published a report confirming that farm payments need additional oversight and that 19 of the top 20 operations that use these loopholes are in the South. This revision of the final rule has not deterred me. I'll continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to fix this broken system in the next Farm Bill."
Walmart and similar big-box stores win the pandemic with one-stop shopping; some small, rural retailers in trouble
Walmart and other big-box stores like Target and Home Depot have reported strong third-quarter earnings, The Economist reports.Simeon Gutman of Morgan Stanley told the magazine (which calls itself a newspaper but is fully digital) that such companies get a huge edge from e-commerce, and can draw from "diverse, global supply chains," to keep products in stock and allow shoppers the convenience of one-stop shopping. That's especially appealing during a pandemic when people are trying to avoid unnecessary trips.
Monday, November 23, 2020
Online misinformation and distrust in the news media helps fuel the rural-urban political gap, according to a recent opinion piece. Supporting independent local news media could go a long way towards bridging that gap. More than half of Americans believe the national press doesn't share their interests and concerns, a view encouraged by Republican leaders, Marc Ambinder writes for MSNBC. Armbinder is a senior fellow at the University of Southern California's Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.
Local journalism is vital to decreasing political polarization and increasing civic engagement, Ambinder writes: "There is a direct correspondence between the closing of newspapers and the polarization of people formerly served by those newspapers. If you live in a town with a thriving local news ecosystem, you are more likely to vote."
The best way to increase trust in the news media overall, he writes, is to promote and support local, independent news, which people tend to trust more than national news outlets. "Trust will not come out of a top-down reappraisal of how the media covers people outside of cosmopolises," Ambinder writes. "An energetic local news revival would create models of engagement; it would allow newspapers (in digital form) to intervene in social conversations before misinformation spreads. Local news outlets are an early warning system that benefits everyone, and over time, might increase the level of comfort that mistrustful Americans have with the reporting process."But the number of working journalists in the U.S. has plummeted over the past decade, and so has advertising revenue (especially since the beginning of the pandemic). So alternate funding models must be considered, Ambinder writes.
"ProPublica is investing in state reporting, which is excellent. To combat misinformation, we need engaged local reporters with audiences who trust them to report in real time," Ambinder writes. "We cannot cure systemic mistrust of media elites from establishment outlets, or hope to completely tame our information disorder as long as the internet exists. But we can recapitalize local news, and we need to make it a national priority."
Biden can reduce rural-urban political polarization by modernizing federal rural policy, researchers write
One reason rural Americans have become more conservative is that they feel left behind by federal economic policy, according to a recent think-piece. Revitalizing rural federal policy could help reduce rural-urban political polarization, Anthony Pipa and Natalie Geismar write for the Brookings Institution. Pipa is a senior fellow in global economy and development at Brookings, and Geismar is a global economy and development project coordinator and research assistant at the Center for Sustainable Development.
Though most of the American economy boomed over the past decade, employment in many rural areas still hadn't recovered from the Great Recession when the pandemic hit. "According to analysis from the Center on Rural Innovation, the four industries at highest risk of being impacted by covid-19 account for 56 percent of jobs in rural areas, compared to 43 percent in metro areas," Pipa and Geismar write.
The pandemic has exacerbated other inequalities rural Americans face: they're more likely to die from covid-19, they have less access to health care, and lousy broadband makes it harder to navigate work, schooling and more while social distancing, Pipa and Geismar write.
Rural America needs more support, but the current federal programs and tools meant to encourage rural community and economic development are "outdated, fragmented, and constrained, and the resulting incoherence and complexity is not producing deep enough results fast enough," Pipa and Geismar write.
They say research found that, not only is the bureaucracy governing such programs "bewildering," but that programs are far more likely to administer loans than grants, which increases rural debt load. They also found that "rural communities lack access to flexible grant funding and are often disadvantaged by eligibility requirements, per capita spending formulas, and allocation formulas that privilege densely populated urban areas."
They suggest three broad actions:
- Launch a domestic development corporation that would award large, flexible block grants for local improvement, empower and support local leadership, provide technical support, and rigorously measure and analyze results to make sure it's working.
- Create a national rural strategy, and reform current policy to improve its coherence, regional integration, and transparency.
- Appoint a bipartisan congressional commission to analyze the effectiveness of rural policy and build bipartisan "momentum" for rural policy reform.
"As coronavirus cases spike, a national group that represents thousands of evangelical Christian doctors and other healthcare providers is asking churches to stop holding services in person," Sarah McCammon reports for NPR.
Leaders of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, who claim 20,000 members, said that Christians who hold large gatherings may "appear to care only about our individual freedoms and don't care that we may be contributing to others getting this illness because of our selfishness."
According to several studies, most health-care workers infected with the coronavirus got it out in the community, not at work, the statement says. That includes church services.
Dr. Jeff Barrows, CMDA's senior vice president for bioethics and public policy, told McCammon that Christians are commanded to love their neighbors as themselves, and that avoiding in-person gatherings is one of the "most tangible" ways to do that right now."Barrows said he's particularly concerned about the risk of asymptomatic carriers of the virus spreading it to vulnerable people with weaker immune systems," McCammon reports. He also said that CMDA members who work in hospitals and emergency rooms are warning that the pandemic has stressed the medical system to its breaking point.
"Polling indicates that political conservatives are more skeptical of the need for social distancing, a category that overlaps substantially with white evangelicals," McCannon writes. "According to a survey in May, white evangelicals – the largest religious group in the country by some measures – also expressed more reluctance than most other groups toward the idea of being vaccinated against covid-19."
Sunday, November 22, 2020
Journalists from Rapid City, Lincoln and Eau Claire papers discuss pandemic coverage on CNN's 'Reliable Sources'
Dave Bundy, editor of the Lincoln Journal Star in Nebraska, said his paper has three types of readers: those who say "Just give me the data;" those who say "Tell me what I can and can’t do;" and those who say "Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do. . . . There’s covid fatigue, there’s covid conspiracy; there’s a lot of things at work."
Bundy and Kent Bush, editor of the Rapid City Journal in hard-hit South Dakota, agreed that in covering the pandemic, it's important to strike a balance that appeals to all three groups of readers.
"The magnitude of the pandemic makes it difficult to maintain perspective," Bush said, noting that the news of five local covid-19 deaths was in the third paragraph of the Journal's latest story on the pandemic. That would have led the story before the pandemic got so big, he said.
"Everyone's writing about covid in one way or another," she said. "It’s a big relief to work on a story that’s not about this virus."
Saturday, November 21, 2020
Tim Crews, a rural editor-publisher who fought for open government and went to jail to protect sources, dies at 77
|Tim Crews posed in front of the Glenn County Court House. (Photo by Sharon Barker via the Chico Enterprise-Record)|
Tim Crews, a rural editor and publisher who was a leading fighter for open government in California, died Nov. 12 after a long illness from various ailments. He was 77.
|Glenn County (Wikipedia)|
In 2000 Crews spent five days in jail for refusing to reveal his sources for a story about theft of weapons by a former California Highway Patrol officer, Janie Har reports for The Associated Press. “If someone is messing with you, you have to fight back. It’s just the American way,” he told the Poynter Institute in 2017.
Crews told Poynter his twice-weekly paper filed an average of more than 20 records requests a year, sometimes going to court fight for public access. In 2013, a judge said his suit to force a school district to turn over 3,000 withheld emails from the superintendent was frivolous, and ordered him to pay $56,595 in attorneys' fees and costs when his income was 20,000 a year. An appeals court reversed the ruling, and Crews won the California News Publishers Association Freedom of Information Award. He received the California Press Foundation’s Newspaper Executive of the Year Award in 2009.
Friday, November 20, 2020
American Express launched the observance in 2010, and has adjusted its messaging to reflect the pandemic. It is emphasizing online shopping this year, and notes that 62 percent of American small businesses reported that they must see consumer spending return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2020 in order to stay in business.
Local businesses often have a symbiotic relationship with local news media, so promoting Small Business Saturday helps everyone. The website includes a searchable map with a list of locally owned businesses in your area, as well as facts, graphics, and other resources for news stories.
Quick hits: New books explore Dolly Parton's music; new podcast series examines the 1980s farm crisis
Decades of corporate-friendly farm policies wrecked rural America, writes a retired Wisconsin dairy farmer. Read more here.
Prisons and jails continue to be a major vector for coronavirus transmission. Read more here.
Two new books explore Dolly Parton's music. Read more here.
The agricultural downturn in recent years was seen as the most challenging stretch for the farm economy in decades. Agricultural Economic Insights has launched a new podcast series, "Escaping 1980," that examines the 1980s farm crisis that brought a wave of bankruptcies and reshaped the industry. Listen to the first episodes here.
Though rural areas disproportionately voted for President Trump, most of his voters came from cities and suburbs; rural areas only have about 20% of the nation's population). Read more here.
A new book chronicles a rural Alabama woman's battle to access basic sanitation services, revealing the scope of the problem for many rural residents and the factors that feed the crisis. Read more here.
Rural Missouri county health director says she faces threats and ridicule for trying to slow coronavirus transmission
|Amber Elliott (Washington|
Post photo by Whitney Curtis)
Though she fears for her and her family's safety by telling the Post about the threats, Elliott, who only began the job in January and is now planning to leave it, said the public needs to know that it's happening to her and other health-care officials all over the country.
Elliott said she finds the backlash confusing because politics play no part in her actions to promote public health. "I don’t base our whole response to this pandemic on my own opinion," she says. "This job is nonpartisan. I’m not political in any way. I go off of facts and evidence-based science, and right now, all the data in Missouri is scary bad."
|St. Francois County, Missouri|
Elliott said she gets emails and Facebook comments accusing her of blowing the pandemic out of proportion, saying she's a communist, a bitch, or someone who is pushing an agenda. "Okay, fine. I do have an agenda. I want disease transmission to go down. I want to keep this community safe. I want fewer people to die. Why is that controversial?" she said.
The county health board recently pushed for a mask mandate since only about 40% of locals were wearing masks. When it held a public meeting about it, medical providers spoke in support, but many locals (some armed) showed up unmasked, yelling at them and booing them. Six weeks after the board imposed a the mandate, mask-wearing had declined 6 percentage points; Elliott suspects many locals didn't like being told what to do: "We required it, and people became more likely to do the opposite. How do you even make sense of that? We like to believe we take good care of each other here. This is rural Missouri. We pride ourselves on being a down-home community that sticks together, and now this is how we treat each other? This is who we are?"
The story is part of the Post's "Voices from the Pandemic" series, an oral history of the coronavirus pandemic and those affected.
Rural Massachusetts hospital group and others rely on PPE 'gray market', sometimes competing with the government
A story from Massachusetts illustrates the difficulties many rural health-care providers face in getting medical supplies to fight the coronavirus.
President Trump has boasted that his administration has ensured the distribution of personal protective equipment and ventilators, but rural providers are often at the end of supply chains and have a much harder time getting such supplies. That has led many to buy from third-party vendors in the "chaotic, cutthroat gray market," often paying inflated prices they can ill afford, Doug Bock Clark reports for The New York Times.
Baystate Health, which serves rural western Massachusetts, "had been forced to turn to unproven entrepreneurs like this after the corporate distributor it had once depended on ran out of N95s, when national and international supply chains collapsed at the beginning of the pandemic," Clark reports. "Their predicament wasn’t unique. Many hospitals, states and even federal agencies were also desperate, transforming the normally staid market for health care commodities into a Darwinian competition of all against all."A Bay State executive "had to wonder: How had the U.S. medical system devolved to this? The Baystate Health team was just at the beginning of a months-long battle to secure PPE from an out-of-control market that the Trump administration would avoid closely managing — despite bipartisan calls to do so from mayors, governors, congressional representatives and the leaders of some of America’s largest health care workers’ unions and industry associations," Clark reports. "Indeed, during the initial outbreak, the federal government would sometimes be the most feared player in that market, acting not in an oversight capacity but as its most powerful buyer and disruptive agent. Though the Trump administration would subsequently take action to improve the PPE supply, the result of its efforts was a characteristically American, ongoing experiment in whether local governments and health-care systems can fend for themselves during a deadly pandemic — an experiment that may have left the country unprepared to deal with a record-shattering 'third wave' of infections this winter."
Thursday, November 19, 2020
|Science magazine map; differing county density among states may misrepresent density of emerald ash borers|
(Photo by Chris Evans, University of Illinois)
Unlikely alliance of Farm Bureau, environmental groups, Farmers Union aims to reduce agriculture's carbon footprint
Interactive map shows how risky a big dinner would be in your county; rural superspreader wedding illustrates risks
|Screenshot of interactive map; assumes actual case prevalence 10 times laboratory-confirmed count.|
"Coronavirus testing sites across the United States are reporting increased demand for tests ahead of Thanksgiving week, worrying local government leaders that Americans are ignoring their calls to scale back holiday gatherings and travel," Andrea Noble reports for Route Fifty.
"Roughly 40 percent plan to attend a Thanksgiving gathering with 10 or more people, according to a recent survey commissioned by Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, Christopher Ingraham reports for The Washington Post. He notes an interactive map created at Georgia Tech that shows how risky it would be in your county to hold a large Thanksgiving gathering.
Meanwhile, a wedding in rural Washington that became a coronavirus superspreader may serve as a reminder of the danger of large gatherings.
Federal and state governments issue conflicting messages about mask mandates as infection rates rise
Meanwhile, amid the coronavirus spike, federal and many state governments are sending conflicting messages about pandemic safety precautions, sometimes leaving the decision up to local governments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against traveling or holding large gatherings for Thanksgiving, for example, but has some recommendations for if you do. Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany called those guidelines "Orwellian" in a recent Fox News interview, Quint Forgey reports for Politico.
Some states, such as Oregon and Kentucky, recently announced new shut-downs because of spiking coronavirus infections, and the Republican governors in Iowa and North Dakota, who once dismissed mandatory coronavirus restrictions as ineffective, have issued mask mandates, Forgey reports. (See a list of mask mandates by state here.)
The governors of some hard-hit states, like Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming, refuse to enact mask mandates, though Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon acknowledged that many are not acting in the best interests of the community, Eric Levenson reports for CNN. "We've relied on people to be responsible," Gordon said Friday, "and they're being irresponsible." That has left local and county governments in such states to decide on mask mandates, and many are.
Mortality rates from "diseases of despair" in Appalachia continue to outstrip national rates, according to a new report commissioned by the Appalachian Regional Commission and conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago and the Center for Rural Health Research at East Tennessee State University.
The report focused on deaths from three main causes: overdoses from alcohol, prescription drugs, and/or illegal drugs; suicide, and cirrhosis of the liver caused by alcoholism. Read more here.
We know how to beat the pandemic, we just won't do it, writes former CDC director, who favors strategic shutdowns
The coronavirus is getting worse and will likely last through much of 2021, especially since widespread distribution of a vaccine is probably many months away. "Until then, we need a one-two punch to knock the virus down and then keep it down," Thomas R. Frieden writes for The Atlantic. Frieden is the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Until we control the virus, he writes, we can't get the economy back on track.
Frieden advocates strategic, well-timed shutdowns. Many don't believe shutdowns work, but that's because many parts of the country shut down too soon and for too long in the spring, he writes: "By the time covid-19 came to areas that hadn’t yet needed to close, people were tired of waiting and resisted continued restrictions. An effective closure needs to be nuanced, specific, and tightened and loosened based on real-time data about where the virus is spreading."
Governments at all levels should mandate mask-wearing in all indoor public places and require businesses to limit capacity or, where necessary, reduce hours or temporarily close, Frieden writes: "Comprehensive action is particularly important for places where covid-19 spreads explosively, including meatpacking, agricultural, and other workplaces where distancing is difficult, as well as for congregate housing, including nursing homes, homeless shelters, and correctional facilities. In addition to universal mask wearing, these regulations should include installing physical barriers such as plexiglass shields, upgrading ventilation systems, and increasing space between people." But governments can't bear all the burden, he cautions, saying individuals must choose less-risky actions, especially with the holiday season coming up.
The U.S. is also failing to effectively test, trace and isolate the infected. "Outbreaks can be stopped, but only by quick, expert work—and cooperation with public-health measures, which is difficult to secure in an environment of misinformation and mistrust, Frieden writes. "Of the many failures of the outgoing administration’s handling of covid-19, the most destructive has been its failure to communicate honestly and directly from the start." Read more here.
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
As nursing-home covid cases surge, few have completed government training meant to quell spread; see which ones
|Covid-19 cases from May 31-Nov.1 in nursing homes and in the general population. (American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living chart; click the image to enlarge it.)|
New coronavirus cases in nursing homes are at a record "despite federal efforts to shield residents through aggressive testing and visitor restrictions, a new report shows," Ken Alltucker reports for USA Today. "Federal data shows 10,279 covid-19 cases during the week of Nov. 1, the most recent data available. The figures surpassed the previous high of 9,903 cases in late July, according to a report by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living."
ProPublica announces six distinguished fellows for longer projects, including some who write about rural issues
- Ken Ward Jr., who left the Charleston Gazette-Mail this year and joined ProPublica to co-found the investigative news non-profit Mountain State Spotlight. Ward won a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" and the Institute for Rural Journalism's Tom and Pat Gish Award.
- Kyle Hopkins, special projects editor of the Anchorage Daily News and a member of the Local Reporting Network, who worked for small-town newspapers across Alaska. The ADN's investigation into the sexual assault crisis in rural Alaska, mainly led by Hopkins, won the paper and ProPublica a Pulitzer Prize in 2020.
- Molly Parker, a reporter for The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale, has been a member of the Local Reporting Network since 2018, and has written about failures in government oversight of public housing. "In her continuing work in partnership with ProPublica, Parker plans to focus on challenges facing the diverse rural communities that make up the Mid-South Illinois region she calls home," ProPublica reports.