The relentless evolution of the coronavirus, which has spawned new variants to fuel fresh surges of disease every four to six months, could in the not-distant future propel the virus to overtake measles as the most contagious of all known infections. Increasing infectiousness does not necessarily make the virus deadlier, but it could make it harder to control, and leave communities vulnerable to the repeated waves of illness that have defined the pandemic. The variants now dominating around the world may be five to 10 times more infectious than the original virus that sparked the pandemic in China in late 2019, health experts believe. Lately each variant has outpaced its parent — omicron, with its massive evolutionary jump, was about three times more infectious than delta. Its subvariants — BA.2 and BA.2.12.1, which are driving the latest surge in the Bay Area — are each more infectious still, by 20% to 30%. The basic reproduction value — a number meant to represent how many … [Read more...] about Almost as contagious as measles: COVID spins out worrisome new mutations
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A thunderstorm event this week with 67,000 lightning bolts captivated Californians, who anxiously tracked the monsoon and hoped it wouldn’t ignite any catastrophic fires. Data from the National Lightning Detection Network shows the storm largely outdid the number of lightning strikes that touched down in August 2020 and devastated parts of Northern California. Looking at the California #lightning data again as the storms taper off. Between 00 UTC June 22 and 13 UTC this morning, NLDN detected 66,897 total lightning events. 45,129 were in-cloud, 21,768 were cloud-to-ground. This is a bigger event than the August 2020 event. #CAwx pic.twitter.com/oGWvc1u7m7 — Chris Vagasky (@COweatherman) June 23, 2022 Tuesday’s storm traveled from the Mexico border to the northern San Joaquin Valley, and west to the Big Sur coast. It carried with it lightning that ignited the Thunder Fire — which has since burned more than 2,300 acres in Kern County — and dozens of other … [Read more...] about Thousands of lightning bolts hit California this week. Here’s why the state was spared from catastrophic fires
California, the U.S. coronavirus hot spot early this year, in recent weeks has recorded some of the lowest case rates in the country. How did that happen? And why does it appear to have reversed positions with states that fared better through the winter surge? One clear example is the New England states of Vermont and Maine. Relatively shielded from the worst of the nation’s previous surges, they have struggled against the delta variant, which has sent their case rates soaring. The two states have higher vaccination rates than California’s, experts say — but lower natural immunity. As horrific as the winter surge was, with hospitals overwhelmed and death rates hitting pandemic peaks, experts say California emerged from it with a relatively significant amount of natural immunity. And that, combined with vaccination levels that are above the national average, is now playing a major role in keeping case rates so low. Experts stress that case rates are just one data point — … [Read more...] about California’s COVID cases are lower than in other states that are more vaccinated. Why?