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UC Berkeley enforcing COVID lockdowns with officers monitoring dorms, outdoor exercise ban

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UC Berkeley enforcing COVID lockdowns with officers monitoring dorms, outdoor exercise ban

Students at the University of California, Berkeley have been told to sequester in their rooms for an additional week as security officers monitor residence buildings and outdoor exercise is banned due to coronavirus concerns.

“Due to the 14-day incubation period of this virus, it is too early to be sure we have contained this current surge,” UC Berkeley told students in an email, according to the Daily Californian. “We understand this extension is frustrating, but please understand this will help us mitigate further spread while protecting our community.”

The self-sequester period was set to end Monday, but UC Berkeley recently extended it to Feb. 15.

“You may NOT leave your room for solo outdoor exercise, which is a change from previous self-sequestering guidelines,” UC Berkeley’s campus housing webpage reads. “We are working with the City of Berkeley to determine whether outdoor exercise may be permitted, and we will provide more information on this in the near future.”

More than 200 students, faculty and staff have tested positive for coronavirus since Jan. 31, according to UC Berkeley’s website. UC Berkeley implemented the sequestration around Feb. 1 due to the coronavirus surge.

Students are only allowed to leave their rooms to seek medical care or coronavirus testing, use the bathroom and pick up meals from a dining kiosk. The outdoor exercise ban is new, the Daily Californian reported.

“We understand that students certainly wish to enjoy exercise and getting outside, and we hope this will be possible in the near future,” UC Berkeley told Fox News in a statement. “It likely should be after self-sequestration directives are lifted. We ask for their patience while we continue to consult with public health officials.”

UC Berkeley also advised students that there may be an increase in “community security officers” monitoring residence buildings, according to The Daily Californian.

The university’s campus housing page encourages students to report any violations of coronavirus rules.

“If you witness a violation of the self-sequester protocols or the Residential Code of Conduct … Residential Life staff will then submit a conduct report on your behalf,” the webpage says. “Reporting what you witness will help protect your fellow students and our community. We are all in this together.”

Students who decide to leave campus housing permanently cannot cancel housing contracts until March 1, according to the Daily Californian. Students may receive partial refunds but must also pay a $300 cancellation fee.

This post has been updated with comment from UC Berkeley.

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Energy-related emissions up in December despite pandemic

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Energy-related emissions up in December despite pandemic

PARIS — Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose slightly in December compared with the same month of 2019, indicating the sharp drop seen due to the pandemic was short-lived.

Figures released Tuesday by the International Energy Agency show emissions from the production and use of oil, gas and coal were 2% higher in December 2020 than a year earlier. The Paris-based intergovernmental agency said a resurgence in economic activity coupled with a lack of clean energy policies mean many countries are now seeing higher emissions than before the coronavirus outbreak.

“The rebound in global carbon emissions toward the end of last year is a stark warning that not enough is being done to accelerate clean energy transitions worldwide,” said the agency’s executive director, Fatih Birol. “If governments don’t move quickly with the right energy policies, this could put at risk the world’s historic opportunity to make 2019 the definitive peak in global emissions.”

Scientists have previously calculated that CO2 emissions fell by 7% during the full year 2020 as people stayed at home because of the pandemic.

“Our numbers show we are returning to carbon-intensive business-as-usual,” said Birol. “These latest numbers are a sharp reminder of the immense challenge we face in rapidly transforming the global energy system.”

Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.

Scientists say that in order to meet the Paris climate accord’s goal of keeping average temperatures from rising by 2 degrees Celsius — ideally no more than 1.5C — compared to pre-industrial times, man-made emissions of CO2 and other planet-heating gases need to reduced to near zero by mid-century.

IEA figures show that China was the only major economy whose emissions grew in 2020, while those in the United States fell by 10% compared to 2019. By December, U.S. energy emissions were close to the levels seen in the same month of 2019, the agency said, attributing this to economic recovery and greater coal use due to higher gas prices and colder weather.

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Eating this ratio of fruit and veggies could help you live longer, study suggests

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Eating this ratio of fruit and veggies could help you live longer, study suggests

How many servings of fruits and veggies should you be getting each day to live a longer life? A new study published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, aims to provide an answer. 

In an analysis of data representing some 2 million people around the world, researchers identified five daily servings of fruits and veggies — two servings of fruit and three of vegetables, to be exact — as the ideal ratio to live a longer life. Diets that are rich in fruits and vegetables “help reduce [the] risk for numerous chronic health conditions that are leading causes of death, including cardiovascular disease and cancer,” per a news release on the findings.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, two robust studies that included more than 100,000 adults who were monitored for up to three decades. 

The researchers noted that both datasets “included detailed dietary information repeatedly collected every two to four years.”

For the meta-analysis, the researchers pooled data on fruit and veggie intake and death from 26 studies that included nearly 2 million participants across 29 countries, finding that consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables each day was associated with the lowest risk of death. Eating more than five servings “was not associated with additional benefits,” they found. 

Additionally, the researchers through the meta-analysis also determined that two servings of fruit and three of vegetables were “associated with the great longevity,” noting that those who ate five servings a day had a 13 percent lower risk of death overall, including a 12 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke. They also were found to have a 10 percent lower risk of death from cancer, as well as a 35 percent lower risk of death from respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

It’s important to note that not all fruits and vegetables are created equal, with the researchers also finding that the greatest benefits were seen in those who ate green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce and kale. Benefits were also greater for those who ate vegetables “rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, berries and carrots,” the researchers said. 

Meanwhile, “starchy vegetables, such as peas and corn, fruit juices and potatoes were not associated with reduced risk of death from all causes or specific chronic diseases,” they said. 

“Our analysis in the two cohorts of US men and women yielded results similar to those from 26 cohorts around the world, which supports the biological plausibility of our findings and suggests these findings can be applied to broader populations,” said lead study author Dong D. Wang, M.D., Sc.D., an epidemiologist, nutritionist and a member of the medical faculty at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, in a statement. 

“This amount likely offers the most benefit in terms of prevention of major chronic disease and is a relatively achievable intake for the general public,” he said of the five servings. “We also found that not all fruits and vegetables offer the same degree of benefit, even though current dietary recommendations generally treat all types of fruits and vegetables, including starchy vegetables, fruit juices and potatoes, the same.”

“This research provides strong evidence for the lifelong benefits of eating fruits and vegetables and suggests a goal amount to consume daily for ideal health. Fruits and vegetables are naturally packaged sources of nutrients that can be included in most meals and snacks and they are essential for keeping our hearts and bodies healthy,” added Anne Thorndike, M.D., M.P.H., chair of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, in a statement. 

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Tensions over vaccine equity pit rural against urban America

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Tensions over vaccine equity pit rural against urban America

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Rita Fentress was worried she might get lost as she traveled down the unfamiliar forested, one-lane road in rural Tennessee in search of a coronavirus vaccine. Then the trees cleared and the Hickman County Agricultural Pavilion appeared.

The 74-year-old woman wasn’t eligible to be vaccinated in Nashville, where she lives, because there were so many health care workers to vaccinate there. But a neighbor told her the state’s rural counties had already moved to younger age groups and she found an appointment 60 miles away.

“I felt kind of guilty about it,” she said. “I thought maybe I was taking it from someone else.” But late that February day, she said there were still five openings for the next morning.

The U.S. vaccine campaign has heightened tensions between rural and urban America, where from Oregon to Tennessee to upstate New York complaints are surfacing of a real — or perceived — inequity in vaccine allocation.

In some cases, recriminations over how scarce vaccines are distributed have taken on partisan tones, with rural Republican lawmakers in Democrat-led states complaining of “picking winners and losers,” and urbanites traveling hours to rural GOP-leaning communities to score COVID-19 shots when there are none in their city.

In Oregon, state GOP lawmakers walked out of a Legislative session last week over the Democratic governor’s vaccine plans, citing rural vaccine distribution among their concerns. In upstate New York, public health officials in rural counties have complained of disparities in vaccine allocation and in North Carolina, rural lawmakers say too many doses were going to mass vaccine centers in big cities.

In Tennessee, Missouri and Alabama, a dearth of shots in urban areas with the greatest number of health care workers has led senior citizens to snap up appointments hours from their homes. The result is a hodgepodge of approaches that can look like the exact opposite of equity, where those most likely to be vaccinated are people with the savvy and means to search out a shot and travel to wherever it is.

“It’s really, really flawed,” said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who noted there are even vaccine hunters who will find a dose for money. “Ideally, allocations would meet the population’s needs.”

With little more than general guidance from the federal government, states have taken it upon themselves to decide what it means to distribute the vaccine fairly and reach vulnerable populations.

Tennessee, like many states, has divvied up doses based primarily on county population, not on how many residents belong to eligible groups — such as health care workers. The Tennessee health commissioner has defended the allocation as the “most equitable,” but the approach has also exposed yet another layer of haves and have-nots as the vaccine rollout accelerates.

In Oregon, the issue led state officials to pause dose deliveries in some rural areas that had finished inoculating their health care workers while clinics elsewhere, including the Portland metro area, caught up. The dust-up last month prompted an angry response, with some state GOP lawmakers accusing the Democratic governor of playing favorites with the urban dwellers who elected her.

Public health leaders in Morrow County, a farming region in northeastern Oregon with one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates, said they had to delay two vaccine clinics because of the state’s decision. Other rural counties delayed vaccines for seniors.

States face plenty of challenges. Rural counties are less likely to have the deep-freeze equipment necessary to store Pfizer vaccines. Health care workers are often concentrated in big cities. And rural counties were particularly hard hit by COVID-19 in many states, but their residents are among the most likely to say they’re “definitely not” going to get vaccinated, according to recent Kaiser Family Foundation polling.

Adalja said most of these complications were foreseeable and could have been avoided with proper planning and funding.

“There are people who know how to do this,” he said. “They’re just not in charge of it.”

In Missouri, where Facebook groups have emerged with postings about appointment availabilities in rural areas, state Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, a Democrat from the Kansas City suburb of Independence, cited a need to direct more vaccine to urban areas.

The criticism drew an angry rebuke from Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who said vaccine distribution has been proportional to the population and critics are using “cherry-picked” data.

“There is no division between rural and urban Missouri,” Parson said during his weekly COVID-19 update last week.

In Republican-led Tennessee, Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey notes that the Trump administration deemed the state’s plan among the nation’s most equitable. Extra doses go to 35 counties with a high social vulnerability index score — many small and rural, but also Shelby County, which includes Memphis, with a large Black population.

Last week, state officials revealed some 2,400 doses had been wasted in Shelby County over the past month due to miscommunication and insufficient record-keeping. The county also built up nearly 30,000 excessive doses in its inventory. The situation caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate and the county health director to resign.

In Nashville, Democratic Mayor John Cooper says the fact that city residents can get shots elsewhere is a positive, even if the road trips are “a little bit of a pain.”

“I’m grateful that other counties have not said, ‘Oh my gosh, you have to be a resident of this county always to get the vaccine,’” Cooper said.

Nashville educators Jennifer Simon and Jessica Morris took sick days last week to make the four-hour round-trip to tiny Van Buren County, population less than 6,000.

They got their first shots there in January, when Republican Gov. Bill Lee was pushing Nashville and Memphis area schools to return to in-person classes. Republican lawmakers even threatened to pull funding from districts that remained online.

In-person classes started a couple weeks ago, but the city only began vaccinating teachers last week.

“It was scary, frustrating, and feeling really betrayed,” Simon said.

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