Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Jan 13, 2022 in Stuff You Should Know

Booster Approved for Kids Aged 12-15

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now approved the Pfizer booster shot for children ages twelve to fifteen. The FDA also shortened the length of time the people need to wait before receiving their booster, from six months after their second shot to only five months. This decision came after 6,300 teens in Israel received their booster after only five months and showed no increased risk of side effects.

Doctor disinfecting arm of patient in volunteer clinic
The vaccine booster has been approved for children ages 12-15.

The Centers for Disease Control stated that widespread vaccination is a critical tool to protect the population from COVID infections. The good news is that the vaccine is free to everyone living in the United States, regardless of immigration or health insurance status, and that omicron seems more likely to cause only mild symptoms in vaccinated people. Therefore, doctors and public health officials recommend that all eligible people get their shot (and their booster) as soon as possible, as well as practice masking, social distancing, and good hygiene.

Dig Deeper The FDA also announced that some immunocompromised children under age five can now receive their COVID booster. But most children under five are still not eligible for a vaccine. Use Internet resources to search for and read the FDA announcement. Write a summary of the key points made by the agency.

Turmoil in Kazakhstan

In Kazakhstan, a country in Central Asia and a former Soviet republic, anger over rising fuel costs led to widespread and deadly protests. After fuel prices doubled very rapidly, thousands of protesters stormed public buildings, set fires, and took control of the airport. Protesters were injured from tear gas and other violence in clashes with security forces. As of January 9, 2022, over one hundred fifty  protesters have been killed and many more have been injured. Several thousand have also been arrested. Law enforcement personnel have also suffered deaths and injuries because of the protests. The country has also experienced a nationwide Internet blackout.

The government initially kept fuel prices low and then abruptly remove the controls. This caused fuel prices to rise rapidly, which began the protests against the government. The protests then grew to include outrage over government corruption, as well as the poverty, unemployment, and poor living conditions faced by many people. Kazakhstan is currently under a state of emergency and the entire presidential cabinet has resigned. The government has been accused of widespread human rights violations, election tampering, and other dictatorial and corrupt practices.

In the wake of the protests, current president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev put the price controls back in place to lower costs. He also met with Russian president Vladimir Putin to discuss ways to stabilize the country. The Russian military has been deployed to control the violence and curtail the protests. Several high-level government officials have also been detained on accusations of treason. Tokayev has referred to the protesters as terrorists and criminals. He declared January 10, 2022, a day of national mourning for victims of violent protests. In a public address, Tokayev ordered security forces to kill protesters without warning to crush the uprising.

What Do You Think? Based on what you’ve read, what do you think will happen next as events in Kazakhstan continue to unfold? Do you think the country is moving closer to peace, or further away from it? Explain.

Return to Remote Learning?

Last year at this time, you were probably doing some form of remote learning. Some students enjoyed the increased freedom and flexibility of not attending class in person. Other students, however, found it was much more difficult to stay focused and learn productively from home. Still others faced additional challenges, such as lack of internet access or unstable home lives.

These are all factors that local school boards and government officials are currently weighing as they decide whether schools should return to a remote learning model. Because of the highly contagious omicron variant, the rate of children being hospitalized for COVID-19 is higher than at any other point during the pandemic. As a result, more than three thousand U.S. schools have already closed. Most of those closings are for a week or two, with the hopes that a short break will help bring skyrocketing COVID infection rates back down.

U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, has announced that despite these challenges, schools should remain open. He says that students have already suffered enough from remote learning. Many teacher unions, however, disagree with Cardona’s point of view. They say that there aren’t enough substitutes to cover for teachers and staff who are out sick, and that conditions aren’t safe for teachers or students. To cope in the meantime, many school boards are instituting mask mandates, mandatory vaccination policies, widespread rapid testing, and other safety measures to try to stay open safely.

Dig Deeper What is happening in your school district as a result of rising infection rates?

Severe Weather Impacts Travel

Wintery weather struck across much of the eastern United States in the first week of 2022. The snow and ice upset many travel plans as the holiday season ended. On January 3 and 4, 2022, a winter storm in Virginia dropped nearly a foot of snow and left hundreds of people stuck on Interstate 95 for more than 24 hours. Several accidents along a 48-mile stretch south of Washington, D.C., led authorities to finally close the highway. The problem was compounded as night fell, temperatures dropped into the teens, and dozens of cars ran out of gas. People shared cell phones, food, and water with one another, while others abandoned their cars and tried to walk to their destinations. Some of the trapped motorists blamed the state of Virginia for lack of preparation. But the state’s authorities say that they did all they could. They warned people of the coming snowfall. They also explained that treating the roads beforehand was impossible because it would have been washed away by the rain that preceded the snow. But no state of emergency was ever declared.

Air travel has also been seriously affected by the wintery weather. Since December 24, 2021, nearly twenty thousand flights have been cancelled. Monday, January 3, 2022, was the most affected day. Over three thousand U.S. flights were cancelled in that single day. However, the weather isn’t the only thing keeping planes on the ground: surging rates of coronavirus infection are also responsible for widespread staffing shortages in the airline industry.

Dig Deeper Use this storm tracker on the CNN website to look for any upcoming severe weather in your area. What can you do to prepare?