On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: 800,000 US deaths from COVID-19
Experts expect the country will eventually pass a million. Plus, Entertainment reporter David Oliver talks about TikTok users saying the app has clued them in to the fact they’re gay, NOW reporter Marina Pitofsky fills us in on the biggest planet ever discovered, a powerful storm drops rain and snow in California and (potentially) the last child tax credit money has arrived.
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Good morning. I’m Taylor Wilson, and this is 5 Things you need to know Wednesday, the 15th of December, 2021. Today, a new grim milestone for the coronavirus pandemic, plus how TikTok clues users into the fact that they’re queer, and more.
Here are some of the top headlines.
800,000. That’s how many Americans have now died from COVID-19. 1200 Americans are dying from the virus every day, mostly from the delta variant. And the omicron variant could be the next concern. It’s also increasingly clear that the country will hit a million deaths. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City told USA TODAY, “There is no question that we will reach one million deaths sooner rather than later. At the current trajectory, we may reach it much sooner than expected with cases, hospitalizations and deaths significantly increasing in the past two months.” Experts are also worried about what the rest of the winter might bring after a virus spike this time last year. Vaccination could be the key, but maybe only with the added protection of booster shots. Pfizer announced last week that a third dose of its vaccine is shown in lab tests to give neutralizing antibodies against the omicron variant similar to the level observed after two doses against the original virus and other variants.
So it’s increasingly clear that COVID-19 is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Atul Nakhasi, a primary care physician at Martin Luther King Jr. Outpatient Center in Los Angeles said that the goal against COVID-19 is the same as every fight in health science, to alleviate human suffering. One piece of optimism may come in available treatments against the virus. Until recently the only available treatment was monoclonal antibodies, which must be delivered through a shot or infusion. But a federal advisory committee recently recommended authorization for the first antiviral oral pills to treat COVID.
Some users on TikTok say their feed has clued them in on the fact they’re gay before they even fully realized it themselves. Reporter David Oliver says the app cannot actually tell if you’re LGBTQ, but the algorithm might awaken what you’ve been missing.
The way that social media algorithms work is like it’s sort of feeding you content that it thinks you’re interested in. So when you open TikTok, if you’re kind of looking at certain videos more than others, or you’re spending even a little bit longer on another video, then another type of one – so if you’re looking at videos from queer creators more frequently, or you see one and spend more time on it, even if you don’t engage with it – that sort of is telling the algorithm that you might also be interested in more of that. So that’s sort of how that may be happening. So even if you’re not consciously aware of it, it could be showing up for you anyway. So that’s kind of how that all starts.
I mean, it definitely, anecdotally from just what I’ve kind of heard of is that people – I mean, I’ve heard this previously, not just from TikTok, but in general – is like, you feel like the ads are being fed or sort of finding out. It’s sort of like things, like the internet knows you better than you do kind of mentality. And then I just sort of was talking to people for this story and then it became a common thing about this platform telling them that they were a queer in some way, or they’re confirming their identity. There’s one person I talked to who like, she was already out, but then the algorithm figured her out very quickly, which I thought was interesting too that it’s almost a reminder for people in some way too about it.
I know that this one woman, Sarah, was very grateful that it happened. It sort of like helped her kind of crystallize a lot of things in her life. It made sense. And she’s since found a girlfriend and it sort of all makes sense. This other person that I spoke with, other non-binary, it sort of made sense to them and kind of made them realize a lot of things about them, kind of like hindsight 20/20 kind of a thing. So I think it’s overall been helpful. I think it’s, I don’t think people saw it as insulting in any way. I think that it’s just sort of helped make sense for a lot of people. So it’s been a good thing from what I can tell.
You can find more of David’s work on Twitter @doliver8.
Scientists have discovered a massive planet orbiting a pair of stars in another solar system. The planet is 10 times the size of Jupiter and one of the biggest planets ever found. NOW reporter Marina Pitofsky has more.
The big discovery here is that scientists have identified this massive planet that is 10 times the size of Jupiter. It’s in another solar system. It’s not nearby or anything, but it is one of the most massive planets ever found. What’s also sort of new about this is that it orbits this massive ultra-hot star system. It’s the kind of environment due to UV radiation and x-ray radiation that usually breaks down the materials that form planets. But this planet is massive and still orbiting the system that’s made up of two different stars. I’ll say when I say massive, the star system is six times the mass of the sun. So we’re really talking about something here.
Another sort of caveat here is that it’s been imaged before, but this team of researchers is the first one to look at it and confirm that it is a planet orbiting the star system. Another thing is that it’s not right next to these stars or anything. In fact, it’s orbiting them at a distance a hundred times greater than Jupiter orbits the sun. So again, we’re talking about huge scales here all around.
A powerful storm slammed California yesterday, dumping up to eight feet of snow at some high elevations. The storm also drenched Southern California with rain, including up to seven inches in Santa Barbara County and mud flows in several counties. The storm has brought much needed moisture to a region in the most extreme level of drought. It’ll also continue to move toward the dry Southwest, potentially bringing rain to Las Vegas and Phoenix and pushing high winds across the region. The central US will also get hit with high winds today across the plains. There could be severe thunderstorms and even tornado risks in part of Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri amid unseasonably high temperatures. Parts of the region are still reeling after nearly a hundred people across six states were killed by tornadoes over the weekend while thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed.
The latest child tax credit money will arrive today for 36 million families around the country who are eligible for the advanced payment. The payments came as part of the American Rescue Plan signed into law on March 11th, which gives up to $300 a month for each kid aged five and younger, and up to $250 for those from six to 17. They began on July 15th and today will be the last one unless Congress passes President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Social Spending and Climate package, which is currently stalled in the Senate.
Thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us on whatever your favorite podcast app is seven mornings a week. Thanks to PJ Elliott for his fantastic work on the show. And I’m back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.
‘This too shall pass away’ this famous Persian adage seems to be defeating us again and again in the case of COVID-19. Despite every effort