We know, it’s that strange week where time stands still and you just want to eat your leftovers in peace. So, unlike your sister, her husband, and their four children, we’ll make sure the news doesn’t overstay its welcome.
1. Omicron unpacks its suitcase: And it’s looking like it’s going to stay a while.
The daily rate of cases has surpassed that of the Delta variant, buuuuut hospitalizations remain lower than other peaks. This could be reason for optimism, or it could just mean hospitalizations haven’t caught up yet.
The CDC changed its quarantine protocols for positive, asymptomatic people this week from 10 days to 5, which critics are quick to point out likely has more to do with the economy and politics than science.
Social media was quick to condemn the CDC for seeming to cave to Delta Airlines’ request to shorten the isolation period. But, it’s a little more nuanced than that; it helps all businesses impacted by staff shortages. The CDC first shortened the isolation period for healthcare workers who were positive and asymptomatic to seven days (with more room for cutting if there are staffing shortages.) The UK and New York state had already shortened their isolation period, so there is precedent. The CDC says they made the change because data shows Omicron isn’t contagious as long as prior variants.
It didn’t take long for the medical and scientific communities to weigh in with their disapproval. Our favorite:
TL;DR: It’s clear the new guidelines will keep more businesses, hospitals, and schools staffed up. Dr. Fauci said exactly that. There are political advantages for a president whose approval numbers on handling COVID are reaching record lows. Our take: the CDC’s confusing guidance further erodes public trust and raises again the specter of politics shaping COVID policy. And to the many health care workers in this audience, we know two years in, you’re exhausted and will likely bear the brunt of these decisions.
Meanwhile, more kids are catching Omicron, which means proportionately, more are getting severely ill; pediatric hospitalizations are up 35% in a week.
Tests are widely unavailable, with pharmacies sold out of rapid tests and hours-long lines for PCRs. Hard to believe this is where we are two years into the pandemic.
On the bright-ish side, it seems masking and pandemic policies have long been divisive. Maybe it’s more human nature than a sign of our times? Check out these headlines from 1918. We all know open-faces.
Thousands of flights were canceled across the globe after Christmas with airline staff calling out sick.
Mon Dieu! French cinemas will stay open, but patrons are barred from eating or drinking in the theatre until the situation gets better. Is a movie without popcorn worth it? This team says oui; keep your masks on!
2. A week of devastating losses: The Nobel Peace Prize winner, anti-apartheid activist, and South African icon Desmond Tutu died at 90. Tutu was the first Black Bishop of Johannesburg and the first Black Archbishop of Cape Town. He was also more recently a champion for LGBTQ rights, saying “I would not worship a god who is homophobic.”
3. The weather outside is frightful: Christmas week weather ran the gamut from pouring rain in typically sunny Los Angeles, to snowfall and ice in the Pacific Northwest, to short-sleeve temperatures in Pittsburgh. Grandfield, Oklahoma was hotter than it was on July 4 this year at 89 degrees Fahrenheit. And Lake Tahoe set a December record with nearly 200 inches of snow this month. Yep, you read that right! What do seasons really mean, anymore, anyway? (See Adam McKay’s climate change satire Don’t Look Up on Netflix for the answer.)
4. Texas takes the spotlight in January: A federal appeals court in Louisiana will hear oral arguments in January on Texas’ restrictive abortion law S.B. 8, which the Supreme Court recently punted to them. What does that mean? SCOTUS said they wouldn’t block the law, but that abortion providers could continue to challenge the law.
5. An apology fit for a duchess: Meghan Markle finally won a victory against tabloids in the UK, with the Mail publishing a (court-mandated) apology to her on the front page for publishing parts of a letter she wrote to her father privately. We will celebrate accordingly, with tea and biscuits.
1. Kanye Kanyes, again: Ye isn’t just shortening his name. He’s also narrowing the distance between himself and his estranged wife (whom he refuses to divorce) by moving in across the street from her and their four children. Kim Kardashian says she wants her ex to be very involved in their kids’ lives, but was she in on this plan?
2. Fool them once, shame on you: Fool them hundreds of times, shame on…who? Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was very disappointed that former Apprentice host and past leader of the free world Donald Trump told right wing host Candace Owens that “the vaccine[s] work.” Jones’ Christmas day response: he called Trump either “ignorant” or “the most evil man who has ever lived.” Who ever would have guessed Trump would be defending science? Is it a Christmas miracle, or a blip in the Matrix?
3. Baba Vanga says don’t relax: A blind Bulgarian clairvoyant who died in 1996 made some prophecies about 2022, and they’re less than rosy. The mystic’s predictions include a virtual reality takeover, another pandemic (yikes), and an alien invasion. At this point, we would welcome those aliens and try to hitch a ride back to wherever they’re headed.
And btw, did you catch that earlier? We have merch, folks! Check it out and order here.
Gretchen Rubin is a New York Times bestselling author, co-host of the ‘Happier’ podcast and now creator of the Happier app. I got to talk to her about resolutions, anxiety, and facing uncertainty in the new year on this week’s News Not Noise Podcast. Some of her answers are excerpted below, edited for clarity.
You are a big advocate of habit tracking. Would you explain what that is?
So habit tracking is just monitoring what you're doing. Monitoring is kind of this superpower, because it turns out that if you monitor your behavior, even if you're not trying to consciously change, you will tend to start moving in the right direction; whether that's monitoring how much you're spending, or how much you're eating, or how much you're yelling at your kids, or how consistently you're reading every day. Just monitoring yourself tends to help you do a better job.
So often when people wanna be happier, healthier, more productive, more creative; they want to change their habits. A lot of times, that's where we really get the happiness boost, when we're doing something consistently over time.
It's winter. It's dark. We don't know what's coming up in the next year. How do we manage our thoughts and expectations when they're running negative?
Uncertainty [is] very difficult for people to manage. And I know a lot of people are sort of like, well, if you could just give me a date, I could kind of pace myself. But this nebulous uncertainty is just very challenging.
I think one of the best ways to start with this is to think about your own body. Our emotional experience is always gonna be influenced by our physical experience. You want your immune function to be strong. Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep. And for many people being stressed out can lead to staying up late, binge watching TV, and waking up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts.
One thing I tell myself is, treat myself like a toddler. I'm like, Gretchen can't be too cold, or she gets cranky. Gretchen can't get too hungry, or she gets hangry. Gretchen doesn't like to be in noisy places for too long. That gets her really on edge. What was true for me as a toddler is true for me as a full blown adult. Of course these are not the most significant things that [go] to the heart of happiness, but they do make a big difference in our ordinary days.
You've launched a new app called Happier. What does it do, and how does it help people stick to some of their better habits?
It's very much informed by everything that I've seen over the years about how people do successfully keep their habits in order to be happier.
The first thing the app does is it figures out your tendency. So it figures out if you're an upholder, questioner, obliger, or rebel. Then of the tools that are on the app, it will suggest a tool for you based on your tendency, so that you're not throwing spaghetti against the wall like a lot of us do.
We're like, oh, I read an article about that, or my sister tried that I'll do that. Well, maybe that's not such a great idea for you. It also really nudges you to articulate answers for the vital nine categories that most aims fall into, like energy and relationships, mindful investment, mindful consumption, purpose, things like that. And then to articulate your aim in a very specific, manageable way.
To hear the rest of Gretchen’s suggestions on starting 2022 with a (mindful) bang, check out the News Not Noise Podcast.
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