Covid Vaccine Update.
CDC Updates COVID-19 Guidance
Those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can gather indoors in small groups without masks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Individuals are considered fully immunized 14 days after they receive their final vaccine dose. Those vaccinated can also gather with low-risk unvaccinated people and do not need to quarantine if exposed to someone with COVID-19. Masks are still recommended in public places, even for those vaccinated; see the new guidance here.
The relaxed guidance partially reflects preliminary data suggesting vaccines may not only protect against the disease, but also make initial infections less likely, and thereby reduce transmission of the virus. A recent Israeli study of those inoculated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine showed around a 90% decrease in both asymptomatic and symptomatic infections. Researchers are still studying the effect, and whether it varies among vaccine types.
More than 60 million people in the US have received at least one dose of a vaccine, or roughly 18% of the population; see how your state is doing here. The country has reported 525,816 total COVID-19 deaths, with 719 deaths reported yesterday (rolling averages).
Scientists reported yesterday the discovery of two species of sea slugs capable of decapitating themselves and regenerating their entire bodies, including internal organs. The phenomenon is believed to be the most extreme example of self-amputation and regeneration ever observed in animals.
Once detached, the heads freely move around feeding on algae, with the self-inflicted wound healing within a day. Almost equally impressive, the creatures are able to subsist without vital organs by hijacking chloroplasts from the algae and performing photosynthesis internally (a feature known as kleptoplasty). A near-replica of the original body returns after three weeks, while the headless discarded body stays alive for months.
Exactly how and why the animals ditch their bodies is unknown. Stem cells are believed to be involved at the breakpoint, and the process may be triggered by the presence of internal parasites. Future studies are expected to advance the field of regenerative medicine for humans.
And yes, there’s video.
Sen. Roy Blunt to Retire
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt (R) announced yesterday he would not seek reelection when his term expires in 2022. The fourth-highest ranking official in the Republican Senate leadership, 71-year-old Blunt serves on the powerful Appropriations Committee and is the ranking member on the Rules Committee.
While the move is unlikely to affect the chamber’s power balance — former President Donald Trump carried the state by more than 15 points in November — Blunt becomes the fifth Republican senator to announce plans to leave office at the end of the current term. The group includes Sens. Pat Toomey (PA), Rob Portman (OH), Richard Burr (NC), and Richard Shelby (AL). Each of those four is considered to be part of the moderate wing of the party.
Republicans must defend 20 Senate seats in 2022, while Democrats must defend 14 seats. With just under 20 months to go, six of the races are viewed as competitive — four currently held by the GOP and two held by Democrats. See a breakdown here.
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SHORTS FOR TODAY (& TOMORROW)
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IN THE KNOW
Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> Oprah’s interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry pulls in 17.1 million viewers, the biggest non-sports TV audience of the year (More) | Netflix’s hit miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit” to be developed into a stage musical (More)
> Novak Djokovic breaks Roger Federer’s record for most weeks all-time atop tennis world rankings with 311 (More) | Quarterback Dak Prescott inks four-year deal with Dallas Cowboys for $160M; signing bonus of $66M is highest in NFL history (More)
> Leon Gast, Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker known for “When We Were Kings,” dies at 85 (More) | Ohio student dies three days after alleged fraternity hazing incident where he was forced to drink alcohol (More)
Science & Technology
> SpaceX seeks approval to connect its Starlink space-based internet network to cars, boats, and other vehicles (More)
> Scientists uncover the mechanism allowing squids to tune the color and brightness of their skin; the animal’s cell membranes have a controllable accordion-like structure that reflects different colors of light (More)
> Oldest-known mummification manual decoded; the 3,500-year-old medical text suggests precise embalming recipes were in use for thousands of years (More)
Business & Markets
> US stock markets mixed (S&P 500 -0.5%, Dow +1.0%, Nasdaq -2.4%); Nasdaq officially enters correction territory, falling 10% from an all-time high in February as tech stock rout continues (More)
> Video game retailer and “meme stock” GameStop up 41% on news board member and Chewy cofounder Ryan Cohen will lead company’s transition to e-commerce (More)
> Private equity giant Apollo Global to acquire retirement services company Athene in deal valued at $11B (More)
Politics & World Affairs
Brought to you by Dollar Flight Club
> Jury selection delayed in the trial of Derek Chauvin as the court considers an additional third-degree murder charge in the killing of George Floyd; trial expected to begin today (More) | See a breakdown of charges (More) | Judge dismisses all charges against Kenneth Walker, the boyfriend of Breonna Taylor, who fired at police the night she was killed (More)
> Myanmar military storms universities and hospitals amid a nationwide general strike against the Feb. 1 coup; five media outlets have their licenses revoked (More)
> President Joe Biden issues executive order creating White House Gender Policy Council, orders administration to review rules governing campus sexual assault (More)
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WTF are NFTs?
The Hustle | Zachary Crockett. An animation of a rainbow-propelled cat sold for $590K; a 10-second video clip went for $6.6M. The use of non-fungible tokens has seemingly exploded overnight. Here’s what NFTs are, what they aren’t, and how they work. (Read)
‘I Hate My Prosthetic’
Input | Britt Young. They may look like a technological leap forward, but many users say advanced prosthetics have significant downsides — to the point where they’d prefer cheap, low-tech replacements. (Read)
BECOMING PLASTIC NEUTRAL
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Women used to dominate the beer industry — and were accused of witchcraft.
Say hello to the world’s smallest owl. (via YouTube)
Fascinating remastered footage from 1940s London. (via YouTube)
Mars tops the list of February’s best science images.
Billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott marries a science teacher.
How the Oval Office has changed over the years.
Nearly 1,000 girls earn the elite rank of Eagle Scout.
A record-breaking trip across a lava lake.
Clickbait: The Naked Cowboy has been arrested.
Historybook: Cartographer Amerigo Vespucci born (1454); First person in space Yuri Gagarin born (1934); Barbie doll debuts at American Toy Fair (1959); Rapper Notorious B.I.G. is shot and killed (1997).
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