Category: US News

The Legacy of COVID-19

Claire D., journalist

The COVID-19 pandemic has dragged on for nearly a year now, and as we quickly approach the mid-March marker, the world seems to be holding its breath, waiting to see when life can return to the normal we once knew. Unfortunately, with the U.S. reaching over 500,000 lives lost to COVID-19, we will have to find a new normal to abide by, one with smiles missing from our dinner tables. Herd immunity through vaccination is an ongoing, long process, from actually creating the vaccine to then transporting it, and to then getting it into people’s arms, and is not expected to be achieved until the fall of this year. As a nation, it is time to recognize that coronavirus will not simply go away as we had once hoped but will remain part of this world even after the majority of the U.S. has been vaccinated. 

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A Murky Future: COVID-19’s Effects on College Admissions and Post-Secondary Plans

Nastia G., Arts Department Co-Editor

As college decision season rolls around, the full effects of the coronavirus on the college admissions process are becoming brazenly clear. Along with claiming the lives of over 500,000 U.S. residents alone, COVID-19 also affects the futures of over 20 million teenagers (ages 15-19) across the country. Graduation and what used to be prom season is just around the corner, and many communities are acknowledging the unfortunate cancellations of these in-person high school events with sympathy. Some schools are even working on creative ways to allow these cherished teenage milestones to persist even under stringent safety protocols. There is no doubt about it- high school juniors and seniors are not having the high school experience they waited for, and it is unfair. But the sad truth is that not even a magical prom or in-person graduation ceremony will amend the anger and disappointment high schoolers nationwide feel. The real brunt of coronavirus on teenagers is not that it forces high school experiences to look different but that it seriously impacts life beyond graduation and makes the future even murkier.

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Women Face the Brunt of Unemployment, Making Up 100% of Job Losses in December

Danielle Chan, Newsletter Co-Editor

The Covid-19 pandemic has driven many out of the workforce and into unemployment. Despite both men and women facing a drastic loss of jobs and economic instability, women have been disproportionately taking a much more devastating hit in the labor force. As opposed to the Great Recession, in which 70% of men working primarily in manufacturing and construction industries lost their jobs, the economic and financial crisis created by the pandemic is nearly two times as worse as what America faced from 2007-2009.

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Biden’s Gun Control Plan

Claire Douglas, journalist

The Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, was ratified in 1791. In the present day, a shopper can able to click a checkout button online and have a gun delivered in a matter of days. With such easy gun access and a problematic background check system, America saw 611 mass shootings in 2020, with a total of 43,224 gun-related deaths. Simply put, in 2020,, there were more mass shootings than there are days in a year. President-elect Joe Biden, who will be  be sworn in on January 20th, 2021, has a plan to “get weapons of war off our streets.”

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Looking back on the November election

Lily McLean, editor-in-chief

The 2020 general election saw the spotlight turn, for the first time in many years, to poll workers. 

Poll workers are an often faceless class, invisible citizens who, motivated either by a sense of civic duty or perhaps the small stipend offered as a reward, stay at the polls from dawn to dusk. They facilitate a fundamentally democratic process, one that keeps the United States functioning as a republic. 

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Enigmatic Monolith in Utah Desert Conjures Theories

Paige P., journalist

Shortly after its mysterious appearance, a twelve-foot-metal structure found in a remote area of the desert in Utah has already disappeared, just as quickly as it came. Members of the Utah Department of Public Safety were flying over the desert on November 18th in search of bighorn sheep. In addition to sheep, they came across a triangular, hollow monolith sticking out of the red rock. By the night of November 27th, the structure, composed of three sheets of stainless-steel, had already been removed by an individual or group of people just over a week after it was originally spotted. At the moment, there is no solid evidence pointing to who created the monolith, how it got there, how long it has been there, or how it disappeared.

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Trump Refuses To Concede Election

Owen H., journalist

Washington, DC – President Donald Trump is refusing to concede the 2020 presidential race to President-Elect Joe Biden. If he continues, he will be the first United States President to ever do so. 

Not that the Trump presidency has been like any other. He has broken many norms already, and has been the third President in the United States to be impeached. But if he refuses to concede the election, he will be the first United States President to do so. Before the 2016 election, Trump said that he would refuse to accept the results of the election if he lost. He has done the same this election too, claiming that there was going to be mass voter fraud and that fake ballots would be cast by mail. 

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Covid Vaccine

Ben K., journalist

A new vaccine for the virus sweeping the country, COVID-19, is in place and may be distributed through pharmacies and grocery stores alike. For many months now, COVID has been affecting everyone in some way, no matter who you are or what country you live in. According to the Associated Press, Moderna, an American biotechnology company, has released news that the tests have yielded very good news, despite the current state of the virus now, and how the future would look very grim without the vaccine. The vaccine has appeared to be 94.5% effective, which is a huge step in dealing with the virus and will be very effective if distributed soon. Many companies are in a race for the vaccine, but only a few have been very successful. While Americans brace heavily for the next possible wave of COVID coming to us all, there is a light at the end of a tunnel for us all.

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Is Coronavirus the End of Fracking?

Croix Ellison, Science Co-Editor

As the top oil-producing industry in the United States, hydraulic fracturing has prevailed through the American economy for more than a century. As the process has significantly altered the energy landscape, fracking (short for “hydraulic fracturing”) has also led to rising oil and natural gas production. This production has also led to cheaper oil and reduced reliance on imports or oil and gas from other countries. However, the nation’s heavy use of the natural gas produced from fracking also leads to more pressing environmental concerns. 

Fracking is a process in which sand, water, and chemicals are injected directly into the ground at high pressure to crack open rocks and release the oil or gas trapped inside. The process is also considerably more expensive, and it only works when global oil is at much higher prices than it is now. 

Fracking (technically) is not new science, despite how it is framed in public discussion. With a history tracing back to the 1860s, the modern-day fracking process we know now has prevailed since the 1990s. Additionally, the fracking process, as a result of being made from toxic pollutants such as oil and gas, is a significant contributor to the devastating consequences of climate change, which has led to drastic and dangerous disruptions in our daily lives: there is an increase in natural disasters that are not only destroying shorelines, lowering air quality or eating away at world economies, but they are disproportionately affecting lower-income communities across the globe. The impact on vulnerable Black, Brown, and Indigenous populations in the United States is a particularly prevalent problem. 

What’s not discussed as widely is how the fracking process can go wrong. If this were to occur, it could lead to the contaminants from oil and gas wells leaking into streams and water supplies. Furthermore, fracking operations are industrializing (and destroying) both wild and rural landscapes and disproportionately putting agricultural and recreational economies at risk. Since the fracking boom hasn’t led to the type of environmental safeguards needed to regulate it heavily, restrict it or eliminate it (thanks to a very active and well-funded oil and gas industry that contributed nearly $100 million to candidates in the 2020 election cycle), the process could also lead to blighted landscapes and poison water. 

Yet, since the beginning of the pandemic, one central question persists: Is the fracking industry collapsing because of the coronavirus? As a result of Covid-19, the world has seen many shifts in economy and livelihood. Due to a decrease in the usage of carbon powered machines, air pollution levels have seen significant drops – perhaps more so during the first months of the pandemic as U.S. cities instituted mandatory lockdowns, at least according to a University of Minnesota study. As a result, certain countries, like the United States, have seen some improvement of the environment’s air quality due to a decrease in the use of machines powered by oil and gas (cars, airplanes, boats, trains).

For example, fewer people are commuting all over the world. Therefore, commuting traffic levels are not as high as pre-pandemic; most local travel is confined to shopping at local grocery stores for essential items. Travel bans have restricted international flights. Canceled conferences, festivals, concerts, and other public events have diminished tourism. Additionally, airline ridership has slumped altogether, and in many cases, airports are near-empty (despite a sudden uptick in holiday travel starting in the Thanksgiving break). Interestingly enough, the nation’s air quality has improved while energy oil and gas production has begun to deteriorate during this pandemic

The recent 2020 election debate over fracking between presidential candidates Joe Biden and Donald Trump gave the American public the impression that the fracking industry was somewhat strong. However, what was missed is that the fracking industry is, in fact, not doing so well. In the first month of official quarantine in the U.S., as declining oil prices had shocked the oil industry, fracking companies had already started to file for bankruptcy. During this pandemic, not even one out of 100 of the largest fracking operations can profit from such low oil prices. 

Since oil prices have decreased to staggeringly record lows, that has become a big problem for fracking companies, as they require oil prices of at least $30 or higher to turn a profit. The industry as a whole is in debt, especially as oil prices pretty much cratered in the Spring of 2020 due to the pandemic. Additionally, according to a recent report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, fracking companies are spending more money now than they are generating. Globally, 400,000 jobs have been lost in the oil and gas energy sector – and nearly half of those in the United States. Meanwhile, according to the International Energy Agency, “global energy demand is expected to contract by 6% in 2020, the largest drop in more than 70 years. Global CO2 emissions are expected to decline by 8% in 2020, falling to their lowest level since 2010.” These effects are all because of the pandemic and the fallout from it: rising coronavirus infections, increasing hospitalizations and deaths, and high unemployment and severe economic distress. 

It might seem like the disruption in the oil and gas sector leads to an opening for clean energy. Less reliance on fossil fuels should, naturally, mean a transition to clean energy sources like solar, hydro, and wind power. That hasn’t necessarily been the case during this pandemic. Every economic sector is experiencing some form of decline, including the clean energy sector, which has relied heavily on investments to help it move forward, including government support. As the IEA report (from June 2020) notes, the renewable energy sector has been resilient during the pandemic, but “… [d]espite this resilience, renewables’ growth is expected to slow down in 2020. 

Covid-19 is devastating the oil and gas industry, but it’s gently nudging the clean energy sector. Overall, however, it is having a significant impact on the energy industry as a whole. Still, there are signs that the energy sector may be addressing this challenge through gradual transitions to clear energy. Texas, for example, is a prominent case study. 

As a result of the largest oil and gas companies eliminating and laying off staff due to the Covid-19 epidemic, Texas’s oil jobs have disappeared rapidly. However, as the oil industry started to deteriorate, investors were already placing money towards renewable energy storage. 

According to ERCOT (The Electric Reliability Council of Texas), wind power accounted for 6% of Texas’s electricity in 2009. Last year, this percentage went up to 20%. Over this same course of time, coal production in Texas fell by almost half. Additionally, Texas has also made considerable headway on the transition to solar energy, and the state ranks number four in solar capacity. Furthermore, in Austin, Texas, Tesla’s new $1.1 billion “gigafactory” is under construction. This is estimated to build 5,000 jobs from electric vehicles and battery development. Texas can be used as an example to many other states when transitioning out of fracking and oil production into clean energy. 

Government support remains an essential key in the transition to clean energy. Federal, state and local levels should prioritize investments in clean energy start-ups and projects. There are signs that Congress will try to push through another pandemic economic relief package – or stimulus – by the end of this year or definitely at the start of the new Biden administration in 2021. Investments in clean energy projects, as part of a larger plan to boldly transition to a future with less air-polluting fossil fuel in it, would be a good start to build a new clean energy infrastructure. That would also create new jobs and spur innovation and help former oil and gas employees transfer their energy sector skill sets into new work. 

The fracking industry’s sudden disruption has many positive impacts on clean air, energy pollution, and the future of renewable energy. However, it would be the perfect opportunity now or in the immediate future to start exploring the process of switching to renewable energy. Otherwise, we have industries falling, economies failing, and little to no plans towards making any of that better. 

Joseph R. Biden Jr. Elected President of the United States

Lily McLean, editor-in-chief

Joseph R. Biden Jr. has been elected president of the United States on the fifth day of the 2020 presidential election. After a tight battle between Biden and the incumbent, Donald J. Trump, the state of Pennsylvania was called for Biden, giving him the twenty electoral votes he needed for victory. Major networks, from Fox News to CNN, have now called the election in favor of Biden.

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