We’re Back In Business
Well, it’s not the new normal that people believed would come. It’s the same old normal in many states that Americans experienced before the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirteen states (as of the time of this writing) have not only opened most businesses, but they have also removed mask requirements. These include Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas.
To the relief of students and parents, schools are opening for in-person learning as well. Nearly all of Kentucky has allowed children to go back to school, and in Florida and South Dakota, schools are open statewide. Indiana has recommendations for masking and social distancing, but schools and restaurants have been open for quite some time without severe consequences.
The states keeping schools closed while they consider their options include California, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. And, to be fair, the Center For Disease Control (CDC) is not thrilled with raising restrictions. “I know people are tired; they want to get back to life, to normal,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “But we’re not there yet.”
Yikes! No Computer Chips. Now What?
The unthinkable has happened: We are in the middle of a computer chip shortage. How did this come about, and what is being done to fix the situation? We use computer chips in nearly everything we have. They’re in machines in the factories that produce just about everything we use and the computers the military uses to keep America safe.
The severity of the situation – sparked by manufacturers closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic – motivated President Joe Biden to find a long-term fix. Experts say that the shortage will probably last all year, at least. The shortage of auto chips has disrupted car manufacturing, and Ford, Nissan, and Toyota have cut down on vehicle production.
But an even more worrying is America’s security. Yes, chips are used in all defense systems, and a lack of supply is worrying those with the demand.
Experts and manufacturers alike warn the shortage of chips will last the duration of 2021. ON Semiconductor CEO Hassane El-Khoury spoke on the record with one news outlet and advised an auto chip shortage that will continue to disrupt car manufacturing. As such, there is a significant bottleneck of orders on hold. Automakers Ford, Nissan, and Toyota have drastically cut down on vehicle production.
Mount Aetna, the most active volcano in Europe, is living up to its reputation: In the span of two weeks, the craggy mountain has erupted seven times, spewing ash into the air and lava down the mountainside. Nearby residents in the town of Zafferana Etnea have been blowing ash off roadways and dodging chunks of volcanic rock falling to earth after each expulsion.
It seems to be a time for eruptions to disrupt normally calm atmospheres: There have been similar emissions from Guatemala, Indonesia, Iceland, and the Philippines.
Over the weekend, the Pacaya volcano in Guatemala had so much activity the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) released a warning that an ash plume rose to an estimated 10,000 ft and was a danger to residents. In Tokyo, a volcanic ash plume rose to an estimated 16,000 ft and was blowing in the easterly direction.
In just the first quarter of 2021, eruptions worldwide are causing folks to wonder if there is a volcano season. There may not be an actual season, but there is a trend scientists have noticed. that was published in Geophysical Research Letters:
“A statistical analysis of the Smithsonian Institution’s global catalog of volcanic eruptions during the last 300 years revealed that volcanoes all over the globe are 18% more likely to erupt during the northern winter months than at any other time of year. The pattern is solid for volcanoes along the Pacific rim, where winter eruption rates in some places are up to 50% higher than average.”
At least, this appears to be the expected time of year for eruptions.