A rare snow leopard at the San Diego Zoo has tested positive for coronavirus

By |2021-07-25T16:23:40-04:00July 25th, 2021|Uncategorized|

Last Thursday, wildlife care specialists noticed the snow leopard had a cough and nasal discharge, the zoo said in new release. Preliminary tests confirmed the virus that causes Covid-19.The zoo said it doesn't know how the snow leopard got infected. According to the Snow Leopard Trust, there may be only about 4,000 to 6,000 snow leopards left in the world.In January, the zoo started vaccinating its animals with donated recombinant purified spike protein vaccines, which are not intended for human use. The zoo vaccinated several great apes after the zoo's gorillas tested positive for the virus. The gorillas fully recovered.Veterinary teams at the zoo are focusing on wildlife most at risk of contracting the virus, including leopards, lions, tigers, cheetahs, jaguars, mountain lions and others, according to the zoo's news release.The snow leopard appears to be doing well and is showing no addition symptoms, the zoo said.The snow leopard shares his habitat with a female snow leopard and two Amur leopards. Those animals are being quarantined and monitored closely.This isn't the first time a snow leopard tested positive in the US. In December, three snow leopards at the Louisville Zoo were confirmed to be infected with the virus. Those leopards showed mild symptoms and were believed to have been infected by an asymptomatic staff member.Testing at the zoo and at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System confirmed the positive test of the San Diego Zoo's snow leopard. Results are still pending from the US Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories.

Hundreds are still under evacuation orders as the nation's largest wildfire chars nearly 400,000 acres

By |2021-07-23T04:22:22-04:00July 23rd, 2021|Uncategorized|

"It's kind of a dubious honor," said Marcus Kauffman, spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Forestry, referring to the fire which has charred nearly 400,000 acres, although firefighting crews have been able to contain 38% as of Thursday."But it's not all bad news," he said. "In the last couple of days, the fire has only grown 1,000 acres per day, and for a fire of this size, basically that's a really strong signal that fire behavior is moderating."Still, there's still "a long road ahead of us to ensure the safety of the surrounding communities," said Joe Prummer with the Northwest Interagency Incident Management Team. But it's not just nearby areas that are feeling the brunt. Seventy-nine large fires have already destroyed nearly 1.5 million acres of US land, prompting the need for more than 21,000 firefighters and support personnel to respond to the blazes, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Montana is home to the most fires, with 17, and Idaho following close behind with 16. In addition, hundreds of fires are burning in the Canadian province of British Columbia, where a state of emergency was declared this week.The smoke has traveled far and wide and is expected to continue causing health problems across the US.The air quality in New York City, home to more than 8 million people, took a hit Tuesday when the smoke created a hazy skyline, making it the city's poorest air in 15 years. And while air conditions in the Northeast significantly improved Thursday -- thanks to a cold front that pushed out some of that smoke --millions in the Midwest and Southeast are still breathing air compromised by the blankets of smoke that linger.All of Indiana, most of North Carolina, and portions of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia were under air quality alerts Thursday because the areas will be unhealthy for sensitive groups. The alerts also apply to cities including Nashville, Louisville, Raleigh, Charlotte, Indianapolis and DenverMany areas in the Northwest and Rockies, where the wildfires are burning, are also under air quality alerts. On Friday, the smoke is expected to move further south, where it will pass over Atlanta, Georgia, and Birmingham, Alabama, before it moves back to the Northeast.Largest fire takes toll on crewsThe Bootleg Fire has demanded a massive response from firefighting crews -- and presented some big challenges. On Thursday, the fire managers reported that nine firefighters tested positive for Covid-19. "Due to the number of positive cases, this will be reported to [the Oregon Health Authority] as a workplace outbreak," the managers said. Under protocols developed with the OHA, anyone at a fire camp reporting symptoms must be isolated until Covid-19 results come back, along with their close contacts.In addition, a firefighter got separated from his crew last weekend and was alone in the blaze for nearly three hours, officials said."He was not lost but got separated from his crew because he had to move in the opposite direction to maintain his own safety," Kevin Keeler, a Nevada army guard helicopter pilot, said in a news release."The firefighter was in good spirits and was able to hike to the road to a waiting ambulance," according to the JIC.Bootleg Fire chars carbon offsetsTo make matters worse, the Bootleg Fire has also spread through at least one-fifth of forests set aside for carbon offsets in the nearby area as of Thursday afternoon, according to a CNN analysis. The trees in these forests, known as Klamath East, were meant to survive 100 years to remove climate-warming carbon from the atmosphere. But since the Bootleg Fire started, flames have scorched nearly 90,000 acres of trees set aside to offset carbon emissions on behalf of businesses and individuals. That's around a fifth of Klamath East's total land, according to a CNN analysis.The carbon offset area is owned and operated by the Green Diamond Resource Company, a forest products company.Representative Patti Case of the Green Diamond Resource Company, which runs the carbon project at Klamath East, said it will be weeks after the fire is out before the company can assess the impact on its forests. "While it may seem that nothing would escape the flames, often we find areas after the fact that are merely scorched and will survive. In other cases, the fire burns so hot that everything is devastated, and replanting is a challenge," Case said.CNN's Andy Rose, Dave Hennen, Chris Boyette Daniel Wolfe, Tal Yellin, Renée Rigdon and John Keefe contributed to this report.

Fact check: Rep. Swalwell falsely says Mitch McConnell only got 'serious' about vaccines after Monday stock market dip

By |2021-07-22T21:25:41-04:00July 22nd, 2021|Uncategorized|

McConnell warned that "these shots need to get in everybody's arm as rapidly as possible or we're going to be back in a situation in the fall that we don't yearn for, that we went through last year."McConnell noted that he is a victim of polio, for which a vaccine took decades to develop, and said, "It never occurred to me, after three highly effective vaccines were developed in under a year, that we'd have difficulty getting Americans to take the shots. But that's obviously where we are." McConnell was then asked if he would speak out against people who are speaking out against Covid-19 vaccinations.He responded that he couldn't be any clearer on this subject, since he has been "saying the same thing about vaccinations all along the way," and said that others can say "whatever they choose." But he added that vaccination is the way to avoid being hospitalized for Covid-19, and that Americans should "ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice."McConnell's remarks made headlines. They also prompted baseless suggestions that these remarks were a significant shift from his previous rhetoric. "Is it surprising that a dip in the stock market is what it took for McConnell, (Fox News host Sean) Hannity et al to get serious about #COVID19 vaccines?" Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat, wrote on Twitter, where he has more than 1 million followers.Rex Chapman, a former NBA player from McConnell's state of Kentucky, who is now a prolific Twitter personality with more than 1.1 million followers, tweeted: "This dude didn't wear a mask publicly for MONTHS AND MONTHS while the former guy was in office. He went right along with whatever the former guy said and did with regard to COVID. He knew all of this...then. So why now? This man is a misinformation scourge..." In fact, the misinformation here was coming from Swalwell and Chapman.Some other conservatives have this week taken different public positions on Covid-19 vaccinations than they did in the past. For example, a high-ranking House Republican, Rep. Steve Scalise, announced he had just received his first shot, citing the risk of the Delta variant.But McConnell was being entirely consistent.Facts First: Swalwell was wrong to suggest that McConnell's rhetoric on Covid-19 suddenly shifted after the Monday stock market dip. Since December, McConnell has made numerous similar public remarks urging Americans to get vaccinated. And Chapman was wrong to claim that McConnell went months during Donald Trump's presidency without wearing a mask in public. McConnell was photographed wearing a mask in public in April 2020, the same month the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending that people do so, and soon became a vocal advocate for mask use.McConnell on Covid-19 vaccinesWe don't know precisely what Swalwell meant when he claimed that McConnell had only this week gotten "serious" about Covid-19 vaccines. A Swalwell spokeswoman did not respond to requests for an explanation on Wednesday. It's clear that McConnell has been plenty serious about the Covid-19 vaccines since they have been available. Here's a partial accounting of McConnell's numerous pro-vaccination remarks.On December 17, McConnell issued a statement in which he announced he would soon get vaccinated. He said: "The only way to beat this pandemic is for us to follow the advice of our nation's health care professionals: get vaccinated and continue to follow CDC guidelines. As a polio survivor, I know both the fear of a disease and the extraordinary promise of hope that vaccines bring. I truly hope all Kentuckians and Americans will heed this advice and accept this safe and effective vaccine."The next day, McConnell tweeted a photo of himself in a face mask, holding his vaccination card. He tweeted: "Just received the safe, effective COVID vaccine following continuity-of-government protocols. Vaccines are how we beat this virus."And the day after that, McConnell delivered a pro-vaccine message on the Senate floor, saying, "These vaccines are safe. They are effective. They are our nation's path out of this hellish chapter."In late March 2021, McConnell appeared at a vaccination site in his home state of Kentucky and said there is "no good argument not to get the vaccination." Asked what he can say to help convince Republican men to get vaccinated, he said, "I can say as a Republican man, as soon as it was my turn, I took the vaccine. I would encourage all Republican men to do that."The day after that, during a visit to a vaccine distribution facility in Kentucky, McConnell repeated his pitch to Republican men and called it a "modern medical miracle that three effective vaccines were produced in less than one year." McConnell made another appeal to Republican men during a visit to a Kentucky vaccination facility in early April, saying "we need to take this vaccine" and that "reservations need to be put aside." The Biden White House publicly thanked McConnell for his remarks. Later in April, McConnell authored a pro-vaccination op-ed article that appeared in Kentucky publications. He wrote: "These doses are filled with hope and optimism, and I urge every eligible Kentuckian to get their shot as soon as possible."McConnell promoted the vaccines once more during a Kentucky visit in May. And in June, asked by a reporter at a Kentucky event what he would say to people who are not taking the shot, he said, "Take it. I'm a big fan of vaccines." He called the vaccines "highly effective" and, again, a "modern medical miracle," and he said he encouraged "everyone, everyone, to get the vaccine." Last week, McConnell told CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox: "It is discouraging that so many people remain unvaccinated. I am a big fan of vaccinations. I had a personal experience with that in my own life and it is pretty clear from all the evidence that if you get the disease, you are much more likely to survive it if you get vaccinated." He added, "I think we just have to keep preaching that and try to get people to understand the importance of it, and for whatever audience I may have, I am going to keep talking about it."All of these comments came before the Dow experienced its biggest drop of the year on Monday before rebounding on Tuesday. And again, this is not even a complete list of McConnell's pro-vaccination comments. People are free to argue that McConnell should have done more to denounce anti-vaccine misinformation from right-wing media or to pressure members of his own party who have promoted such misinformation. But the notion that McConnell has suddenly flip-flopped on the subject, or wasn't "serious" until Tuesday, is unfounded.McConnell and masksChapman claimed that McConnell "didn't wear a mask publicly for MONTHS AND MONTHS while the former guy was in office," using "the former guy" to refer to Trump. But that's just not true.McConnell regularly wore a mask in public during the Trump era, though he regularly took it off when making public remarks. And starting in May 2020, the month after the CDC began recommending public mask-wearing, McConnell was a vocal promoter of masks even as some other Republicans scoffed at them.He said in May 2020 that "there's no stigma attached to wearing a mask." In June, he added, "Wearing simple face coverings is not about protecting ourselves. It is about protecting everyone we encounter."In July, he said he wouldn't involve himself in a Kentucky battle over the governor's power to mandate masks in public, but he continued, "But I'm here to tell you, put it on. The single best way all of us can be responsible to ourselves and sensitive to the health of others is to wear a mask and to practice social distancing." That month, the Associated Press called him the Republican Party's "mask spokesman."McConnell could certainly have been a harsher critic of Trump's own approach to the virus, but it's also not true that he simply went along with everything Trump said and did. McConnell said in early October that he had not visited the Trump White House since August 6 because of the lack of mask-wearing and social distancing there.Chapman acknowledged in a message to CNN on Thursday that "Mitch did wear masks before other GOP'ers," but he added that he thought McConnell didn't do enough "in the earliest stages of Covid" to "keep us from where we are now."This story has been updated to include a comment from Chapman.

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