Posts tagged with "west virginia"

Traveling by Kaelen Felix for 360 Magazine

Texas Winter Storm Coverage

By: Emily Bunn

As Texas faces its worst winter storm, and largest insurance claim, in the state’s history, many Texans are banning together to stay warm and conserve resources. The frigid winter storm that has been ravaging the state has led to burst pipes, power failures, and flooded homes. Many residents have been left without any clean drinking water, heat, or power. Some have taken to sleeping in blanket covered tents, while others are attempting to heat their homes by boiling their limited water supply.

In towns such as Lubbock, Texas, frozen water pipes have lead to leaks, water damage, a lack of heat, and ice accumulations, especially in school campuses. Across the state, k-12 schools and universities–such as Texas Tech University, located in Lubbock–have been affected. Chief Operations Officer Rick Rodriguez said to KCBD: “We’re never going to put our kids in a school where their safety is compromised. That’s our highest priority. We would never bring kids back to school if we did not think it was safe.”

Tragically, more than 50 Texans have died from hypothermia, house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. One of the grimmest situations arriving from this storm include the death of Loan Le, a grandmother, and her three young grandchildren in a house fire after attempting to stay warm during the night. While power had been restored to most people across the region after last Saturday, approximately 69,000 in Texas, 61,000 in Mississippi, and thousands more in the surrounding states of Louisiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia still remain without any power.

While the spirit of community aid rippled across Texas–through programs like The Houston Food Bank, the Austin Disaster Relief Network, the San Antonio Food Bank, Feeding Texas, Front Steps, and several community efforts, such as at the local H-E-B grocery stores–the state’s Senator, Ted Cruz, selfishly took a flight to Cancun, abandoning many freezing Texans and his pet poodle.

As Cruz lounged at the Ritz-Carlton, Texans faced depleted water supplies, empty grocery store shelves, and freezing temperatures. Stepping in to take some responsibility, President Joe Biden declared an emergency declaration in Texas.  This emergency notice will allow for Texas residents and business owners to apply for temporary housing grants, home repair loans, and other emergency aid. While the declaration doesn’t cover the entire state, individual assistance is being provided to 77 of 254 counties, including those surrounding Texas’ most populous areas, including Houston, Dallas, and Austin. Texas Governor Greg Abbot discussed Biden’s declaration in a statement:

“I thank President Biden for his assistance as we respond to impacts of winter weather across our state, while this partial approval is an important first step, Texas will continue to work with our federal partners to ensure all eligible Texans have access to the relief they need.”

As the Texas National Guard has been deployed across the state to deliver water and conduct welfare checks and relief efforts, such as the $3.2 million dollars help raised by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Rep. Sylvia Garcia, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas continues to battle the hazardous consequences of this unforeseen winter weather.

COVID Mask Care illustration by Mina Tocalini

Study Shows State-By-State Reopenings Exacerbate COVID

As Summer vacations end in Europe and in the United States and students return to college campuses and primary schools worldwide, fresh waves of COVID infections are causing renewed restrictions after loosening in the Spring and Summer. However, a new study shows that this uncoordinated opening, closing, and reopening of states and counties, is making the COVID problem worse in the U.S., according to the authors of a new study released today. Using methods from their previous work, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, MIT PhD student Michael Zhao and Sinan Aral, Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and author of the upcoming book The Hype Machine, have released the first comprehensive study of the impact of state-by-state re-openings on the COVID pandemic, spanning January to July, 2020 with surprising and troubling results.

After studying combined data on the mobility of over 22 million mobile devices, daily data on state-level closure and reopening policies and social media connections among 220 million Facebook users, the team found that reimposing local social distancing or shelter-in-place orders after reopening may be far less effective than policy makers would hope.

In fact, such closures may actually be counterproductive as they encourage those in locked down regions to flee to reopened regions, potentially causing new hotspots to emerge. This analysis demonstrates that travel spillovers are not only systematic and predictable, but also large and meaningful.

Arizona was one of the first states to open businesses, but in late June, bars, gyms, movie theaters, and water parks were shut down for 30 days as the state became one of the virus’s new hot spots. One month after dine-in restaurants, bars, and gyms were allowed to reopen in California, Governor Gavin Newsom made the country’s most aggressive reopening reversal amid his state’s spike in COVID-19 cases, shuttering all indoor dining, bars, zoos, and museums in the state. Similar reversals have occurred in Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, West Virginia among other states.

“We’ve seen a patchwork of flip-flopping state policies across the country,” says Sinan Aral, the senior author of the study. “The problem is that, when they are uncoordinated, state re-openings and even closures create massive travel spillovers that are spreading the virus across state borders. If we continue to pursue ad hoc policies across state and regional borders, we’re going to have a difficult time controlling this virus, reopening our economy or even sending our kids back to school.”

The new study showed that while closures directly reduced mobility by 5-6%, re-openings returned mobility to pre-pandemic levels. Once all of a state’s peer states (in travel or social media influence) locked down, focal county mobility in that state dropped by an additional 15-20% but increased by 19-32% once peer states reopened. “State policies have effects far beyond their borders,” says Aral. “We desperately need coordination if we are to control this virus.”

When an origin county was subject to a statewide shelter-in-place order, travel to counties yet to impose lockdowns increased by 52-65%. If the origin had reopened, but the destination was still closed, travel to destination counties was suppressed by 9-17% for nearby counties and 21-27% for distant counties. But when a destination reopened while an origin was still closed, people from the closed origins flooded into the destination by 11-12% from nearby counties and 24% from distant counties. “People flee closures and flood into newly reopened states,” says Aral, “we can’t avoid the travel spillovers caused by our ad hoc policies.”

These findings highlight the urgent need to coordinate COVID-19 reopenings across regions and the risks created by ad hoc local shutdowns and reopenings. In addition, the results highlight the importance of taking spillover effects seriously when formulating national policy and for national and local policies to coordinate across regions where spillovers are strong.

Kaelen Fenix illustration for homelessness in 360 MAGAZINE

Covid-19 Increasing Homelessness

By Eamonn Burke

A study back in May of this year by a Columbia professor found that the unemployment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic could increase homelessness by 45%, following a peak unemployment rate in April of 14.7%. Using data from previous recessions as well as current unemployment trends, Dr. Brendan O’Flaherty estimated that another 250,000 people would become homeless this year, bringing the total number of homeless in the country to 800,000. Across the nation, evidence of this narrative coming to fruition is clear. In West Virginia, there are 10,000 homeless students. 125 homeless people have died this year in San Francisco. Homelessness is increasing in Ohio and Texas, and Residents of Long Island are petitioning for another homeless shelter. This is just some of data to show the trend of widespread homelessness as a result of the coronavirus.

Besides taking the lives of many through infection, the coronavirus has caused a massive recession, like likes of which have not been seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s. As of last month, 22 millions Americans are receiving unemployment payments, coming after one of the best economic stretches in American history.

In addition to unemployment benefits, many people were also protected by the moratorium under the Federal CARES Act, which has since expired, allowing evictions to resume. An Aspen Institute study estimates 30-40 million people could be evicted by the end of 2020. This means even more people out on the streets and more vulnerable to getting COVID, which creates a vicious cycle and creates more pressure on emergency services. Shelters are available but often overcrowded and unsanitary.

There is also the issue of those who are older and who have preexisting conditions, who have been identified as higher risk for COVID-19 and who also are becoming more prevalent among homeless populations. Over 100,000 people over 45 years old were estimated to be living outside on an average night in 2019. Another study showed that around 85% of unsheltered people had physical health issues in 2019. Lastly, a Harvard study revealed that roughly 11 million households spend at least half of their income on housing, making them vulnerable in a recession.

There is also a racial undertone of the homelessness crisis from Covid-19, as black and Latinx people make up a large portion of the population and 58% of black and Latinx people lack the sufficient liquid assets to survive a recession. This can lead to greater racial disparity in an already tumultuous period for race relations in the country.

The CARES act also provided $4 billion in funding, which the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, along with The National Alliance to End Homelessness used to develop a framework for how to use the money to fight homelessness. It focuses on five major points: services for the unsheltered, housing, shelter, prevention and diversion, and improving future systems.

It is expected that the rising homelessness rate with correlate with the projected rising unemployment rate through 2022. The homelessness rate was already rising with overpopulation, and the pandemic is acting as a catalyst for the issue.

Make The Most Out Of Your Vacation

Any trip to the USA should fill you with excitement and even a little awe. It’s a huge, sprawling country with much to see and do. The problem is picking the best state to visit so you get the most out of your vacation.

Is California better than New York? What does Alaska offer that you can’t get in New Jersey? Is Nevada just for gamblers or can you take in a show or two? These are just a few of the questions you might want answers to before you plan your trip.

The team at PlayNJ have done some research to help and now have an interactive map of the US which makes that decision making process a whole lot easier. They’ve taken a range of parameters including tourism income, gambling and theatre, things to do, and general happiness level to rank each of 50 states.

The general ranking gives a listing of overall performance and it’s no surprise that states such as California, Texas, Florida and New York figure at the top. Curiously, the team have also included a happiness ranking which shows a slightly different story. While California comes first in general classification, it only manages 13 for happiness. Hawaii only hits 20 on the general ranking but comes out on top for fun.

While you may have to take some of the listings with a pinch of salt, the interactive map does give you a good idea where the strong point of each state lies.

California has the highest tourist income at $126.3 billion, mainly because it’s one of the most popular holiday destinations on the planet. Not only is it home to Hollywood and the iconic city of San Francisco, it’s also got Disneyland and the Yosemite National Park. Wyoming has a much lower income but does have some noteworthy places to visit such as The Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains.

If gambling is your big thing and you want to combine it with a show or two, then the obvious choice is Nevada. Las Vegas is the gambling capital of the western world and is full of casinos. There are also plenty of shows to take in and the service, so visitors say, is second to none. There are even a couple of zoos and a few theme parks to give you something different to do. For overall happiness ranking though it rates well down at 34.

For those looking for variety in their trip, it’s best to look at the ‘Things to Do’ map. Here Florida is top of the list with 1,699 separate activities and Alaska is not far behind on 1,644. These are two totally different locations, so it’s wise to take a deeper look at what’s on offer. Florida is famous for sun, sea and sangria as well as its numerous theme parks. Alaska is more for your outdoor types with breath-taking locations like Winner Creak, Kincaid Park and Resurrection Bay.

For those who want to take in some sport, Texas and California top the list for stadiums. You can go see the Dallas Cowboys play in Arlington or visit the world famous Rose Bowl in California. If you don’t like sport and won’t be visiting a stadium anytime soon, Vermont is the place to go, they don’t have any. Of course, it will all depend on who your favourite team is and the sport you want to watch.

Next time you’re planning a trip somewhere in the USA, take a look at the PlayNJ interactive map to help you begin planning the best locations to visit. It’s a great way to start exploring what this vast, sprawling country has to offer for the humble tourist.

Halloween Candy Map

In case you haven’t noticed all of the pumpkin-lined porch steps or the multitude of horror movie marathons on TV, it’s spooky season! Halloween is less than two weeks away, which means hayrides, haunted houses, and, most importantly, FREE CANDY!!! Well, free for cute kids dressed up like Spiderman or Moana. For adults, Halloween means stocking up on the good stuff to avoid a yard full of toilet paper or having your car decorated with egg yolks. Halloween is a candy manufacturer’s Christmas. According to The National Retail Federation, it’s expected that 2.7 billion dollars will be spent on trick-or-treat candy this year. It may seem like a good idea to buy the cheapest bag of candy you can find, however, when November 1st rolls around and you’re left with three pounds of store-brand lollipops none of the trick-or-treaters wanted to take, bargain shopping might be a decision you’ll regret.

If you want to avoid the horror that is too much leftover candy, you’ll have to fork over a a few extra bucks for the good stuff. You may stroll down the candy aisle at the supermarket amidst the plethora of different chocolates, gummies, sours, and sweets, and think to yourself, how do I know which candy to buy? Well, CandyStore.com, is here to help. Over the past 10 years, CandyStore.com has been shipping tons of bulk candy all across the United States and Canada. They compiled 10 years (2007-2016) of sales data for the months leading up to Halloween and put together an interactive map that details the top three most popular Halloween candies for each state, indicated by pounds distributed. Check out the interactive map HERE to become the go-to house for all of the witches, ghosts, and Chewbaccas in town. Or, if you’d rather not have hoards of little vampires and Pokemon running through your yard but still want to please the kiddos, CandyStore.com also has a list of the WORST candies, so you know exactly what not to buy.

CandyStore.com also offers the option of skipping the trip to supermarket all together. Order online in bulk so you can avoid facing the delicious temptation of sugary goodness in candy aisle.